The early years sector is experiencing a funding crisis. Home-based and nursery settings are finding it increasingly difficult to remain sustainable, never mind to invest in enhancing practice and provision. We are a Reggio Emilia inspired childminding setting, providing consistently outstanding early years education and care for babies and pre-school aged children of all abilities. Children’s learning, development and happiness is at the centre of everything we do. Children enjoy a safe and loving environment where they learn to respect themselves, their friends and their environment. Our days are full of laughter and wonder: full of art & design, singing & dancing, music & lets-pretend. Every activity is thoughtfully planned in a way that promotes curiosity, creativity and imagination. It is a place where children thrive and where their love for the natural world – and everything that lives in it – flourishes.

 

It is a place where we introduce children to the same kind of things we used to do when we were children: making mud pies and perfume from petals: drawing pictures in sand with sticks or on pavements with a piece of coal or a broken plant pot; making a tent from a clothes airer and a sheet; jumping from log to log so the crocodile can’t bite us; driving to the seaside in a cardboard box. We take it for granted how creative we were back then. Before all-day children’s TV and ipads. We had to get bored to get creative but few children are given the time to get bored these days.

All creativity comes from imagination – we just need to give children time and space and a little bit of inspiration. This is why our routine is simple; our environment is simple; and our resources are simple. Children are free to flow from indoors to outdoors all day long, following their interests. But a proportion of the children we nurture are considered some of the most disadvantaged in the town and some don’t have access to the outdoors at all when they are not with us. Some don’t have gardens of their own and some don’t live near to a park or a beach or have the means to get to one. Children’s mental health is in decline and a growing number of children are suffering from stress and depression. Re-connecting with nature can help but we know that modern family life is hectic. Parents juggle working, shopping, laundry, gardening and housework and may also care for their own parents and even study too. We know that they’re doing the very best they can. Inevitably, more and more children find themselves spending time indoors. In fact, increasingly, children just don’t seem to know what to do with themselves when they’re outdoors and what’s even worse is, many parents are afraid to let their children play outdoors. Now, you might think these children would be thrilled to get outside but sadly this isn’t always the case. Some children are very wary, reluctant and genuinely anxious to step outdoors.

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We would like to create a transitional space between the indoors and the outdoors – a halfway point if you like – and we propose to do this by building a roof to cover our decked area. (A bit like the one in the picture). A roof that will be clear so the children can see the sky and the birds and the trees.  A roof without sides so the children can feel and hear the rain and the wind and to watch butterflies and bees go about their busy days. We want to open up a whole new world of possibilities for children; where they are limited only by their imaginations; where the weather will not stop them from exploring and experimenting; where they can follow their interests all day long; where their self-confidence can grow beyond measure; where their fears and worries about the world can be overcome.

We propose to use this space for quieter activities such as yoga, meditation, gardening and art projects. This will free up our other outdoor play spaces for sand, mud and water play; construction and den building; music making and dance. Our goal is that once children have enhanced their personal, social and emotional skills they will happily move on to take full advantage of all of the other learning opportunities made available to them.

But unlike schools, we are not given an education budget, despite having to implement exactly the same statutory framework for early years and having exactly the same OFSTED inspections. We have to buy all equipment and resources ourselves. And although we are prepared to offer more places for local children from this September, my local authority has confirmed that regrettably there are no funds available to help us to expand and acquire more resources.  This is where we hope you can help. The £1000 we are hoping to raise won’t cover even half of the cost of the project but we are also receiving kind donations of materials such as posts, screws, bolts, cable drums & pallets and old school furniture, all of which we’ll be upcycling and repurposing. Nothing will be spent on labour as we’ll be doing absolutely everything ourselves. Any contribution to our fundraising, however small, will take us one step closer to having sufficient funds to build that roof and to enable children to enjoy all of the wonderful opportunities the world has to offer them. Would you like to be part of that?

featured image courtesy of Kay and Lee Stothart 28.06.17

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