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Learning about Sanctuary in the Early Years

Acorn Nursery in Brighton had to think creatively about its learning activities for the very young children with which it works – making sure that these activities are age-appropriate, sensitive to the students’ diverse backgrounds and help students understand topics that are challenging to most adults!

They started by cementing the idea of what ‘home’ meant to the children, discussing what family looks like to them, where they live and how home makes each person feel. Through the imaginative use of persona dolls, books and resources the children discovered and learnt how other children live.

Celebrating Save the Children’s Den Day which calls on schools and nurseries to help children learn about the issues facing children who lack secure housing, gave them the opportunity to experience what is important to them to feel safe and secure.

Practitioners at Acorn extended the children’s learning experiences by having conversations with them during group times about how they might feel if they had to leave where they felt safe and move somewhere new. Using their understanding the children experienced packing bags and relocating. This helped the children to fully experience the practicalities and emotions involved with moving. Some were excited by this, whilst others were more wary, with students sharing thoughts such as:

Jessica G aged 4:

‘If I didn’t have a home I could live at my Nanny’s house, if children don’t have a home they can come to my house, you could sleep in a tent outside’

Adeline, aged 4:

‘That girl lives at your house because she hasn’t got a mummy and daddy because she had to move away’ (This was remembering that one of our staff had a refugee child as a foster child living with them and she had told the children about this)’

Luca aged 4:

‘I would need my bag and a drink if I went on a long journey’.


The team at Acorn particularly encourage other nurseries to make use of persona dolls to help students reflect on how people in different situations – such as children that are forced to leave their homes – might feel. There are a number of free resources on the Personal Doll website to help you get started, including: Getting Started with the Persona Doll, Persona Doll Story: Tackling Racism and World Refugee Week.