photo: spiros2004 via Flicker (because I forgot to take my camera)
For about a year now, an idea had been spinning around in my head. It was a business idea, something I felt passionate about. Yet I lacked the confidence in my ability to take it on and implement it. Still it spun around in my head, like a record baby, right round right round. (Oh, I'm showing my age here...)
In Germany, the Scandinavian concept of a forest kindergarten has been gaining massive popularity. And in spite of my deep UK roots, and I mean constant moaning about rain with that, it sparkled my imagination. Forest kindergartens are basically outdoor nurseries, usually for children 3 years and over. Children spend all day outside, whatever the weather. They build shelters, create stuff with what's around them, explore, move, run, discover, roam. You could call it a romantic tree hugging back to nature hippy idea, but in a world where children are so protected from the elements, kept indoors almost all day for fear of a raindrop or some stranger danger, glued to TV and plastic toys, the idea of a forest kindergarten has a very real appeal to me.
And then there's the fabulous Pollok Country Park in the South Side of Glasgow, a massive urban country park with large wooded areas, the river Cart flowing right through it. A place I go for walks, for runs, for enjoying one of the most amazing art collections of the UK (the Burrell collection), for visiting Pollok House and Gardens, for it's activities and general beauty. The park where I had my allotment for 5 years. I can't think of a better venue for a forest kindergarten.
I never followed my idea up because I have no Early Years related qualification and because I'm not a risk taker. I have a good and exhilerating job, nothing anyone would give up easily for a insecure existence and a little venture. Ok, some people would, but not me.
Then I came across this.
I mean, can you believe it? There's two mums who have this idea of setting up a forest kindergarten in Pollok Country Park and they just did it????
Wow. I'm jealous. You guys stole my idea! And I'm excited of course. There's a real forest kindergarten at my doorstep! And there's even media coverage hot off the press! Apparently, there was something on the Scottish news yesterday, which we missed, doh. Strangely, I missed all the publicity and it was only through my German connections (the Glasgow Goethe Institute who I used to work for) that I found out about it.
So today, I took the afternoon off and visited the woodlands outdoor kindergarten in action with Mr Cartside. Of course, there's no better time to get a flavour of it than autumn. It was wet, but not pouring. The leaves kept us dry, the colours of autumn were beyond words, and we watched the kids build swings, listen to stories under a tarpaulin, use the roots of an overturned tree as a shoot, build dens, and generally climb over fallen trees. No doubt that Cubling would love this, and would finally have a proper outlet for her neverending energy. And yes, I forgot to take my camera. Shame that, but there are lots of images on their website.
The outdoor kindergarten only started three weeks ago and at present, there are 4 to 7 children each day. They don't have a partnership registration yet, so funding for early years provision (in Scotland that means 12.5 hours per week are free for 3 and 4 year olds) isn't available. The children tend to attend 1-2 days and spend the rest of the time in another nursery where they get the funded hours. This works well because particularly for the younger children, more than 2 full days outdoors, with long walks to and from the base, may be bit much.
My initial idea that Cubling could spend the full 4 days a week in the forest kindergarten from when she turns three may not be practicable. Apart form it being tiresome, especially at the start, I don't want to lose out on the funded hours - so that would mean finding a nursery that would take her for the other 2 days. The difficulty is that nurseries are oversubscribed and we currently use a childminder, and if you haven't had your child in a nursery from before 2 years, it's unlikely you will get a place at all. Of course we'll try, no question about it.
Above all, I'm giddy with excitement at this fabulous opportunity, and I can't thank the two parents who set it up enough for getting their act together (unlike me). Here's to nature kindergartens!
Is there a forest/nature kindergarten near you? Have you got any experience or opinions on it? Would you send your child to one?