Open Sesame with Early Years West Sussex

Three nurseries in West Sussex explored developing the creativity of early years staff through collaboration with artists and children.  The themed enquiry was part of a wider project involving another five nurseries during which staff and artists participated in a series of masterclasses led by inspirational early years performance artists.

Who was involved

  • Early years children and staff at Lancing Children and Family Centre, The Ark in Bolney and Woodstock Day Nursery in Worthing.
  • Creative practitioners: Jane Gordon (visual artist/maker), Jenny Staff (visual artist/maker) and Alex Sutton-Vane (musician/visual artist)
  • Clare Halstead (Arts and Creativity Officer WSCC), Mike Akers, Tim Webb (Oily Cart), Patrick Lynch


How can skills sharing between artists and early years practitioners have a positive impact on children’s creative development and the early years setting?


  • To encourage early years practitioners to take creative risks and explore their own creativity
  • To enable artists to share their learning and learn from the early years practitioners about ways of working in early years settings
  • To stimulate children to explore new ways of working
  • To build the skills base of all those involved
  • To explore developing a unit that can be part of early years training programme


Each nursery hosted a final event created by the children, artists and early years practitioners.  Parents noted the positive impact of the project at home and within settings. Children’s motivation and confidence increased; they learnt new creative skills and techniques, built positive relationships and worked collaboratively.  Staff took creative risks and developed new skills, resources and techniques.  The project is being used as a model to create a new training module for early years practitioners.

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Some children would stay with Jane for the whole two hour session, that is a long time for early years children!

Early years practitioner

One of the main impacts has been confidence in creative activities of all kinds.

Clare Halstead, West Sussex Arts and Creativity Officer

He has learnt that anything is possible and it’s great to be creative!


We covered a whole table with clay and stuck stuff in it, that was great.


Without exception every child enjoyed it and took something positive from the experience… children were so engrossed in the activities that behaviour was positively affected.

Early years practitioner

One of the shyer boys got really engaged, it worked well for those kids on the periphery.

Creative practitioner