Psychology Kindergarten & Toddler Group

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Welcome to the Psychology Kindergarten which is privately run and cares for children from the general public as well as students and staff of the University of Stirling.

Stirling University Kindergarten currently has positions available from August 2017. For further information please contact Federica Caruso.

Established for over 25 years within the beautiful campus of the University of Stirling and graded ‘very good’ by the Care inspectorate for the quality of care and support, the Psychology playgroup provides rich, challenging, and meaningful learning experiences. This is achieved by building upon children's individual interests and needs, as well as strong relationships with parents and the University's community.

The extensive facilities on campus provide the perfect setting for children to investigate nature and have fun walking in the woods and around the lochs. Children and carers also have access to a designated area for growing potted fruit, flowers and vegetables aided by the advice from our very own University gardeners.

A maximum of 16 children can attend each session from 9:00 to 12:00.

The small number of children in the playroom allows us to develop a curriculum that is sensitive and flexible to each child’s individual needs while providing opportunities to build their confidence and develop a positive sense of self. A wide range of play materials and opportunities is on offer to encourage creative and imaginative play. Outdoor learning, emotional well-being, and science experiments are at the heart of our planning and the children also enjoy more focused activities on early literacy and mathematical concepts.

The Psychology department has a long history of excellence in developmental research. The children within the Kindergarten have the unique chance to participate in new research ideas, with staff members and students ensuring that they use fun games and novel toys suitable for children. For more information look at the research tab below.

The Psychology Kindergarten is available to all children aged 2 years 9 months to 5 years. The sessions run from 9am - 12 pm mainly during term times and we currently have spaces available.

We also have a Psychology Toddler group for 0 - 3-year-olds, for more information please look at the Psychology Toddler Group Tab.

If you would like to arrange a visit please contact Federica Caruso, and for an information handout please click here.

The Psychology Kindergarten runs a waiting list system. A child's name can be put on this list at any time. If you wish to do so, please email, telephone or visit Federica Caruso with your child's name, date of birth, address and contact telephone number.

You will be notified as soon as space becomes available.

The next session begins on Monday 21st August 2017 and runs until Friday 29th June 2018.

Children can start at any time during this period.

The Kindergarten meets daily Mondays to Fridays inclusively, starting at 9 am and concluding at 12.00 noon.

The cost for each three-hour session is £7 at present and reviewed annually. Two invoices will be sent, one at the start of each term. Fees may be paid by instalments in October, November and December for the winter term and by 7th March and 7th April for the summer term.

Childcare Vouchers are acceptable. No refund will be paid for non-attendance.

If you wish to withdraw your child from Kindergarten, we require a minimum of four weeks' notice. 

DateStart TimeFinish Time
Autumn Term Monday 21st August 2017 Friday 6th October 2017
Winter Term Monday 16th October 2017 Friday 22nd December 2017
Spring Term Monday 8th January 2018 Thursday 29th March 2018
Summer Term Monday 16th April 2018 Friday 29th June 2018
MayDay (Holiday) Monday 7th May 2018 Monday 7th May 2018

The Psychology at Stirling University has a long history of excellence in developmental research looking into developmental issues. The children within the Kindergarten and Playgroup have the chance to participate in new research ideas with staff members trained in child care and communication. 

All research projects are created with health and safety in mind, are passed through a University ethics committee and will not be taken unless parental consent is given, as parents are asked when the child enrols.

Main Researchers

NameArea of ResearchContact
Dr Jan Kuipers Is interested in speech perception and the development of a mental lexicon in mono- and bilingual infants and toddlers using Event-Related Potentials (ERP) and eye-tracking techniques.
Dr Sarah Vick Is interested in nonverbal communication, human-animal interactions and outdoor learning.
Dr Eva Rafetseder Is particularly interested in the developmental changes of how children drawing inferences. Most of her work has focussed on counterfactual reasoning (i.e., what children conclude, if past events had not occurred the way they did) and how this is related to the development of complex emotions (e.g. regret, relief).
Dr Stephen Langton Eye gaze in children with autistic spectrum disorders (the use of luminance and geometric information).
Dr Yee Lee Shing Is interested in how human cognition develops across the lifespan, making use of both neuroimaging and multivariate developmental methodology.
Prof Christine Caldwell I am interested in social learning, traditions, and cultural evolution, in nonhumans and humans.
Dr Elizabeth Renner

I study the conditions which affect children’s learning from others (social learning) and learning on their own (individual learning). In addition, I am interested in how non-human primates engage these learning abilities.
Mr Mark Atkinson I’m interested in how and when children use different types of information to learn. In particular, I’m looking at how children learn from adults and other children, and how this may be different to how other primates use social information. I’m also interested in language acquisition, and how children may play a part in changing a language as they learn it.
Dr Line Caes I'm interested in how children learn to deal with events that can cause distress. In particular, I'm interested to find out how they learn from observing how others (Kindergarden caregivers and peers) respond to a sad or painful situation.
Dr Catherine Grainger I am interested in cognitive development, and how cognitive processes differ in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

If you would like to talk to any of our researchers on their projects please don't hesitate contacting the researcher, clicking on the name will take you directly to their homepage.

In their first year of life, children undergo crucial changes in their perceptual, motor, cognitive, and social abilities. By systematically observing these changes we aim to gain understanding in what stimulates and what constraints child development in these different domains. Such understanding is of vital importance to determine (a) why some children face problems in their development and (b) how these problems can be treated using evidence-based practice.

Here at Stirling University, researchers are concerned with several questions: How do children distinguish good intentions from bad intentions? How do they know what other people believe and want? How do children learn a language? When do children start to experience complex emotions such as regret and relief? How do children process faces, and how do typically developing children differ from children with autism and children with Williams Syndrome? Are outdoor activities enhancing children’s creativity and learning process?

Stirling University provides excellent resources in the area of developmental psychology. Amongst these are the on-site preschool Kindergarten (3 to 5 years) and the Psychology Toddler Group (newborn to 3 years). Access to these groups is invaluable for both, researchers and students of developmental psychology. The playgroup offers excellent research facilities, including several video-monitored testing rooms and a one-way mirror observation room. We use a variety of approaches, ranging from observational studies, free-play paradigms, and experimental studies, including eye-tracking, and we are developing a child neuroimaging (EEG) lab. Once a year parents are invited to an informal meeting where they will be given information about the most recent studies and they will be given the opportunity to talk to developmental researchers about the most recent findings.



               The Developmental Team Welcomes you.


The Psychology Toddler Group is run by Sarah Thorburn, our experienced Kindergarten senior early years practitioner, on Tuesday and Thursday during term times, from 1.30 pm to 3.30 pm, in room 3W8 on the third floor of the Cottrell Building.

It is dedicated to children from birth to 3 years old and costs £2 per session per family. We currently have spaces available. 

No formal teaching is undertaken but the Psychology Toddler Group provides the opportunity for your child to grow and develop in a safe and friendly environment.  At the same time, both parents/carers and children can socialise and make new friends.

We have managed to negotiate free parking for the Toddler Group parents, which means you will be given a purple card to display on your dashboard during the hours of 1.30pm – 3.30pm during the sessions. You will only have to pay for your parking on the first day, after which Sarah will issue your card.  

You can turn up on the day that suits you best and then Sarah will ask you to sign a few forms. You can also drop us an email before attending the session to let us know you are coming, but that’s not mandatory. There will be coffee and tea available for parents, grandparents and carers and a healthy snack for the children. If your child has an allergy, please let us know asap.

Milk, water, and fruit will be provided for children. Tea, coffee, and biscuits for adults.  Please note that adults are responsible for their own and their child(s) safety when attending the Toddler Group.

The Toddler Group also has a changing mat, wipes, nappy sacks and a few spare nappies in case of emergency.  There are facilities for the disposal of wet nappies. Soiled ones must be taken away.

Occasionally, there are research activities that are conducted by the Psychology Toddler Group. We would ask that you provide your permission for your child to participate or not and we would also be grateful if you could give permission for psychology staff or students to contact you directly regarding child development research. A separate permission form would have to be completed.

Feel free to give us a call on the day on 01786 466836 if you get lost or need help finding us and we will direct you to the room or come and guide you. You should also be able to follow the directions for the Kindergarten/Psychology Toddler Group that Sarah displayed in the building or the handout which can be issued by e-mail.

Finally, may I take this opportunity to welcome you to Toddlers Group and look forward to meeting you.

Below are the annual* inspections for the Kindergarten;

YearQuality of Care & SupportQuality of EnvironmentQuality of StaffingQuality of Management & LeadershipA Copy of the Report
2016 Very Good N/A N/A Good Care Inspectorate 2016
2014 Excellent Very Good Very Good Very Good Care Report 2014
2012 Excellent Excellent Very Good Very Good Care Report 2012
2010 Very Good Very Good N/A N/A
2009 Very Good Very Good Very Good Good Care Report 2009

Please Note:

1) N/A means that the field was not in the report.

2) All Ratings were completed on a scale ranging from Excellent to Unsatisfactory.

3) All CARE Inspections were completed by the 'Scottish Care Commission'.

Open Day, Monday 24th of April from 10am to 12pm, Cottrell Building

Psychology Staff room 3A94.

Our open day is dedicated to all parents, current and future, as well as students who are interested in child development. Come along to learn about the latest findings of the research activities carried out at the Kindergarten and visit our facilities to find out how the Kindergarten can be a place for your child to learn and grow.

10.00 - 10.30am Welcome, Tea and Coffee
10.30 - 11.30am Presentation from our researchers
11.30 - 12.00pm Tour of our facilities and visit the main Kindergarten room.

A small crèche, as well as a healthy snack, will be available to all children who come along. 

If you are able to attend the Open Day or wish to visit us at another time, contact

For more details please click here for a programme.

The Kindergarten is a very good experience as it’s very safe and familiar, and of course friendly! The teachers are amazing with the children, they organise lots of different activities every day so that it’s impossible for the kids to get bored. My daughter loves all the outdoors activities and the work on the seasons is very interesting and stimulating. We are Italian and we are very glad that our daughter is learning English at the Kindergarten. It’s impressive to see how she is improving day after day thanks to the Kindergarten experience. The teachers try to give a feedback every time I collect my daughter and this is very important as parents can be aware of what the children have been up to during the morning.’


‘The care and support which my son is provided with when attending the Kindergarten is outstanding. All staff are very approachable and ensure that kids’ safety is a priority. Sarah and Federica have done a fantastic job at helping my son settle in when he first started back in September 2016. Now he looks forward to his nursery sessions every week and looks forward to telling the teachers what he has been up to. The variety of activity is fantastic. The kids have fun but learn at the same time. My son’s confidence has grown since starting and he is constantly developing new skills and knowledge.


‘I am happy because my daughter is happy. She said that she likes being there “more than the other nursery”. I like the idea of having different environments for the children and a clear structure of activities each day. In my opinion, I think it is good to be involved with students and the research. I also like the detailed feedback on the development of the children. I recommend the Kindergarten to other parents because the children are secure and are learning social behaviour with the other children. I especially like the inclusion of literacy, numeracy, gardening and classical music in the curriculum.


We have received extremely kind and professional support with settling my son at Kindergarten. Particularly as this has been a tricky transition. I have had great communication from staff members. This is a very special provision that allows children to access group play/childcare in a small, nurturing environment. The fact that it’s based within the psychology department allows my child new experiences and can play a part in understanding child development. I would recommend the Kindergarten to other parents because of the unique, friendly, small and homely setting, as well as the professional and welcoming nature of the staff, in addition to the forward-thinking and alternative opportunities for children.’


‘Both my children have enjoyed their time at Kindergarten and have benefited from the safe, stimulating, fun and playful learning environment, that is nurtured in that wee room tucked away in a nondescript corridor lost amongst the university offices and lecture halls! Due to the small numbers and welcoming staff, it is a great place for young children to grow their independence and learn. Games are played with students and walks are taken in the grounds, all adding to the unique experience offered.’

We have been working with the children and the close community of students and researchers that gravitates around our setting to strengthen our work on emotional wellbeing.

Our children are given opportunities to explore their emotions and giving them a voice, to understand other people’s feelings and develop a resilient attitude.

We have introduced mindfulness sessions with our lovely instructor Megan where the children explore their feelings and how breathing can help them to focus and think. They also enjoy some music sessions with our musician Yvonne from Colourstrings where they are given a chance to learn about different musical instruments and to practice rhythms and movement coordination.

In our curricular activities, the children get the chance to explore the most beautiful classical music pieces from Antonio Vivaldi’s ‘The Four Seasons’ and Tchaikovsky’s ‘The Nutcracker’ and ‘Swan Lake’ to Prokofiev’s ‘Peter and the Wolf’ and Saint Saens’s ‘The Carnival of Animals’. This will also introduce the children to the sounds of the orchestra. We also use some lovely illustrations from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to help the children explore the link between the music and visual art.

"Music has lines." (K., 3-year-old)

"Music is up and straight across." (F., 3-year-old)

"When I'm angry I feel like fire!" (J., 4-year-old).

"When I'm sad I feel like water and when I'm happy I feel dry like I go to the beach." (L., 4-year-old).

We strongly believe in exploratory play, which allows the children to engage in play with natural elements and use all their senses to discover and test the objects’ properties, what happens when they are manipulated, what they represent, and how they can be used creatively.

It’s about offering children the opportunity to engage in a less structured, open-ended activity in which they learn to think critically and discover new ideas through trial and error.

"The squirrel needs a shelter for winter to keep warm." (F., 4-year-old).

A.: "I can see some yellow down there."

Federica: "Yellow? What do you think that could be?"

A.: "Maybe treasure?"

Federica: "J., can you see any water down there? What can you see?"

J.: "It's dark, it's dark in there."

A.: "I see black water."

Federica: "Does it make a sound when you throw a stone?"

A.: "It makes a 'clack' noise."

Sarah: "A 'clack' noise?"

Federica: "Ooh, I wonder why that would be?"

A.: "Maybe treasure?"

Sarah: "Is there any water in there if it makes a 'clack' noise?"

Federica: "What sound would it make if there was water down there?"

P. "Sploosh!"

"It looks like swimming paper. It's a whirlpool." (F., 3-year-old). 

"I'm making a snake." (J., 3-year-old).


Exploratory play with natural elements.

  Exploratory play with natural elements. 

‘There is a growing body of research that shows that young children’s access to nature and outdoor play is positively associated with improved self-esteem, physical health, development of language skills and disposition to learning’

Davis, Julie M. (2009) ‘Revealing the research 'hole' of early childhood education for sustainability: a preliminary survey of the literature.’ Environmental Education Research, 15(2), pp. 227-241.

We believe in continuously extending the outdoor learning provision in our setting to offer all the children more possibilities to explore nature, develop a sense of wonder, and test their emotional and physical boundaries while assessing the risks.


"In here there’s all little pumpkins. That’s a big plant with lots of leaves growing. " (J. 3-year-old).

"It needs lots of water.’ (K., 3-year-old) ‘The rain water will do just fine." (P., 3-year-old).

"This is a house for it." (O. 3-year-old, talking to Federica about the hole that he is digging for the plant).

"How long will it take to grow?" (Federica, referring to the plant he is planting) '100 weeks’ (O., 3-year-old).

"I planted pumpkins. They will eat lots of food to grow big." (N., 4-year-old, while planting carrots).

"I’m gonna stay dry, but it’s nice in the wet and I’m already wet." (K., 3-year-old).

       "I could get a shower all day!" (N.,  4-year-old).

The children have discovered a big hole in the ground while exploring the campus.

The children have been planting their pumpkins in the nursery garden allotment between May and June, with the help of our lovely University gardener Eileen and they will be ready for Halloween. 

  We have done an extensive work with the children on risky play, discussing how we can explore our boundaries while staying safe. The children have enjoyed using the dragon frame by the MacRoberts centre to swing, climb and jump. 
Exploratory play outdoors.   

"Now I have nice and soil hands." (F., 4-year-old while potting the tomato plants).

 "I’ve got some soil but I need more, more, more." (J., 4-year-old when planting the rocket).

Children are intuitive scientists eager to make sense of our world (Gopnik, 2009). Introducing science activities into the early years curriculum helps the children develop an inquisitive attitude and explore the different natural phenomena around them. The children in our setting enjoy having opportunities to observe and understand the properties of some objects and the effect of some forces, by making predictions, testing their ideas, and developing explanations.

"I have seen honey bees before. We get honey from honey bees. I like honey very much. They eat flowers and nectar." (L., 4-year-old).
"This is a bee hive, we get honey from honey bees. I like honey too much." (N., 4-year-old).

"The eat nectar." (L., 4-year-old).

"The butterflies eat pasta." (N., 4-year-old).

"Eggs grow into butterflies and eats leaves." (C., 3-year-old).

"Eggs grows into butterflies.Caterpillars look like snakes and eats apples. Butterflies eat flowers." (S., 3-year-old).

"There is a cocoon, inside that there is a caterpillar. Caterpillars then eat leaves, butterflies does not eat anything; caterpillar's grow into beautiful butterflies." (P., 3-year-old).

"It hasn't got legs, it's got a tail." (N., 4-year-old).

"Tadpoles don't have legs, they just got a fish tail." (O., 4-year-old).

"It can't breathe without water, if you add a bit of water, it can't breathe." (N., 4-year-old).

"That one's got a leg, that one's got a leg, that one's eating jelly!"  (L., 4-year-old).

Federica: "What does the brain do?"

K.: "There's little neurons in to help us remember things."

P.: "The brain is squishy."

M.: "It sends little messages."


 "That's one side of my face. That's only half." (S., 4-year-old).

"My real face is on one side and the other part is a drawing." (F., 4-year-old).

For further info contact Federica Caruso Kindergarten Manager Psychology Kindergarten
Room 3W6 Cottrell Building
Psychology, Faculty of Natural Sciences
University of Stirling
01786 466836
© University of Stirling FK9 4LA Scotland UK • Telephone +44 1786 473171 • Scottish Charity No SC011159
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