What’s your favourite memory of playing outside as a child? Chances are (depending on your age!) you might remember climbing trees, building dens, making mud pies, daisy chains or perfume from flowers and playing outdoors for hours at a time.
Children’s play today is very different - increased traffic, fears about safety, parents having to work longer hours and advances in technology have all led to children spending far less time outside playing than they did in previous generations.
But local group Nature Nurture Sussex aims to change all that. The group is working to encourage children and their families to get outside more. “Our aim is to get more children playing and learning outside all year round, enjoying the countryside, seeing and feeling the changes in the seasons and developing a love of nature,” says founder Suzanne Mark.
Nature Nurture Sussex was set up with some initial grant funding by West Sussex County Council and the West Sussex Social Enterprise Network. The group currently works with preschool and primary aged children in Mid Sussex and has been running sessions for the last 18 months but is now looking for a site to establish an outdoor preschool or ‘Forest Kindergarten’.
Inspired by the Scandanavian way of doing things, where young children spend the majority of their time outside, as well as the growth of outdoor nurseries and Forest Schools across the UK, Nature Nurture Sussex wants to find a site with lots of open space for children to run around in and explore, and nearby woodland for them to climb, dig, hunt for bugs, jump in puddles, make shelters, play with sticks and mud, learn about plants and wildlife and develop their skills and confidence. “As long as the children are wearing enough layers and the right clothes to stay warm and dry, they can stay active and have fun outdoors,” says Suzanne.
Though a building would be a bonus, it’s not essential. “We can put up a yurt or bell tent to provide a cosy shelter for children. The main thing is lots of outdoor space with some woodland nearby and good access,” Suzanne added.
Suzanne is now appealing to the local community to help find the perfect spot and to help get involved. If you know of a site locally or have some land that they could use, please contact Suzanne at firstname.lastname@example.org or via their Facebook/Twitter pages or telephone 07792 726017.