By Sue Curnock
Nature Tots Officer
I get a kick out of watching the new recruits at my Nature Tots group getting to grips with the unfamiliar feeling of muddy hands and, horror of horrors, dirty clothes - whether they are 3 or 33. One of my highlights this year was turning round to find the child shouting ‘Yessss!’ as she hit our tree trunk target with her mud bomb was the little girl who had joined us a few months ago; very shy and a bit unsure about the whole thing. This was a turning point for her and for the way both her mum and I saw her. Now she is 4 and one of the leaders in the group, encouraging younger Tots to try new things.
Georgie, one of our mums, summed it up:
‘Nature Tots has provided both my daughters with so much. They have more confidence – I can now go on dog walks with them without any fuss at all. They’ve learned to chop, saw, drill, build and even light a fire. It is by far the highlight of the week for them, meeting new friends and with lots of fun and laughter.’
While Forest School is working its magic on the children’s confidence and social skills, the Tots in turn are learning to love nature. Hands-on activities like making a mud monster or building a den – to be enthusiastically tested for weatherproofing with a watering can by one of our volunteers – bring both the children and their parents closer to the natural world. Following animal tracks, making giant nests of twigs, and pond dipping give opportunities to learn about our woodland wildlife and make a connection with it.
So I suppose the reasons we all turn out on a wet Wednesday morning depend on who we are. For me and my volunteers it is about inspiring the next generation to care for wildlife in the future. For the parents it is about getting their children outside in the fresh air to build confidence and skills. For the Tots I suspect it has a lot to do with the hot chocolate, toast and jam, with plenty of fun and a few breath-taking moments of discovery along the way.
If you would like to donate to the Trust’s ‘Inspiring the New Generation’ appeal to fund future projects designed to inspire and connect children with nature, please click here.