Portsmouth children explore the great outdoors as nursery puts on forest school

NURSERY children are breaking out into the great outdoors in a bid to boost their self-esteem and confidence.

Thursday, 7th October 2021, 11:21 am

Tops Day Nursery at Lakeside North Harbour in Portsmouth runs hands-on activities for its children each Wednesday in its grounds and at Foxes Forest in Hilsea.

It’s part of the Tops Forest School programme, encouraging the children – aged from just three months to preschool – to enjoy nature.

Activities include catapult making, pond dipping, den and tipi building – and they take place all year.

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Ellie Boucher, 22, is a level three senior practitioner and leads Tops Forest School.

She runs the weekly sessions and encourages the children to learn from the natural world.

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Ellie said: ‘All the activities that we run in the Top Forest School are there to meet the interests and needs of the children.

‘In this environment, targets are a lot more reachable and they get that sense of achievement that they might not get in the classroom.’

Ellie added: ‘For children in flats with no gardens, they don’t get to play outside very often so it’s really nice to give them the opportunity and space to explore.’

The six-week programme was started as a trial last year and demand from parents was high.

This has seen the nursery now offer the programmes full-time as an extracurricular activity.

The children are encouraged to get stuck in.

‘They learn lots about the environment and why it is important to look after it, which is important to the company which is all about sustainability,’ Ellie said.

The nursery said outdoor learning has benefited the children’s mental health and communication.

Ellie said: ‘We noticed a massive improvement, particularly in their communication and language development.

‘In a classroom there's about 16 of them but here we put them into smaller groups of eight or nine, they made bonds and grew in confidence.’

Manager Chelene Lillywhite said: ‘We decided we could do a lot more for the children than just simply the classroom and the playground.’

She added: ‘We hope that other nurseries will follow in our footsteps, so children aren’t stuck in their classrooms all day and get a chance to engage with new skills and adventures.’

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