First all-outdoors woodland nursery in London to launch in Highgate Wood

Into the Woods Nursery

Into the Woods Nursery - Credit: Archant

Toddlers have been given iPads to read instead of books in nurseries up and down the country and smartphone apps can provide a library of stories and night-time lullabies.

Founder Emma Shaw

Founder Emma Shaw - Credit: Archant

But one Highgate nursery is harking back to a less technological time by providing early years care that is outdoors, with mud kitchens, tree-climbing and hide-and-seek.

Into the Woods Nursery will be the first woodland day care centre in London, where children aged between two-and-a-half and five will play and learn in Highgate Wood and Queen’s Wood whatever the weather.

It does not matter if it is snowing, raining or freezing cold, toddlers at the £58-a-day nursery will stay outside from 9am until 3.30pm.

Only if it is extremely windy will they retreat to the nursery’s indoor base at Jacksons Lane arts centre in Archway Road, Highgate, or to Queen’s Wood Café, in Muswell Hill Road, Muswell Hill.

Founder and early years teacher Emma Shaw, 45, wanted to set up a nursery for around eight years but had trouble finding a site with enough outdoor space.

She said: “I heard about outdoor nurseries in Scotland and Lancashire and it seemed like a really good idea as there are so many people in small flats with no gardens in Highgate.

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“Children don’t really have the opportunity to connect with nature very often, especially in London. They will be able to learn about the trees, the birds and the changing seasons first hand.”

The nursery will follow the national curriculum but instead of using normal teaching resources, staff will use materials from the woods to teach children.

For parents who can’t pick up their youngsters until the early evening, there will be a two-hour “Back to the Woods” indoor club at Jacksons Lane, where staff will go over what the toddlers have learnt during the day.

Staff will be trained in first aid, how to climb trees safely and other forest skills and will erect a temporary camp in the woods if rain looks likely to provide some shelter from the elements.

Mum-of-three Ms Shaw, who lives in Crescent Road, Crouch End, said: “They need exercise, especially early years children who need three hours of exercise a day, and if they are indoors all the time, they just don’t get it.

“Being outdoors is physically and emotionally very good for children. It has a calming influence on hyperactive children and for children who are quite quiet, when they get outside they talk more.”

The nursery will have around eight to 10 places for children staying all day in its first term, with additional half-day places.

n For more details visit www.intothewoods