The Power of Playgroups

Playgroups have fallen out of favour in the UK in recent decades – they no longer appear to be seen as a valued place for early education for a number of reasons – the ‘schoolification’ of early childhood education has led to a rapid devaluation in the power of play. In the UK, the diversion of most funding for early years provision in to private childcare of has also led many to believe that ‘real learning’ only happens at private nurseries and pre-schools, when this really isn’t the case.  At Little Gulls we are proud to provide playgroups – groups for parent/carers and children to learn and be together – and here’s why:

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Learning  – Our parent and child groups are run by early years, outdoor learning and Forest School professionals. I can happily provide multiple curriculum-linked learning outcomes for every single activity at the Beach School.

And Play IS learning! Learning through play is beneficial to children as they learn invaluable skills about themselves and their environment, that often cannot be taught in a classroom. Play is a precious process of exploration and  using these during play allows children to understand the world around them,  becoming aware of their capabilities, limits and teaches perseverance. Play produces self-esteem and confidence and it is children who have these skills that have the fewest problems when starting school.

A recent meta-analysis study from the University of Southern Australia found that nature play improved children’s levels of physical activity, health-related fitness, motor skills, learning, and social and emotional development. It also showed that nature play may deliver improvements in cognitive and learning outcomes, including children’s levels of attention and concentration, punctuality, constructive play, social play, as well as imaginative and functional play.

There are some wonderful high-quality nursery settings out there providing essential childcare, but it’s important to remember that education doesn’t just happen indoors or in isolation from the family unit.

Here’s a testimonial from one of our families: ” I have huge respect and admiration for the care, thought, authenticity, expertise and knowledge your pour in to Beach School. The crafts and activities are always meaningful and fun. It’s always an inspiring and connective learning experience for the kids and the adults” – Kate


Socialising – Socialisation at our playgroups is real socialisation. Our participants gain interact with multiple age groups and demographics, which is truly enriching. In the early years particularly, child socialisation is also not something that happens in isolation from the family group. In a playgroup setting, children learn to negotiate with others, take turns, share, and resolve conflict. In a playgroup, they can do this while still being supported by their parent or main caregiver which gives them a much-needed safety net to develop at their own pace.

Additionally, parents and carers need to an opportunity to socialise too. There’s a real opportunity for quality playgroups to provide a Site of Mutual Fulfilment. The Beach School is not just for children and we are very proud of this. A term coined by Lucy AitkenRead, a Site of Mutual Fulfilment (SMF) is a place where both the child’s and the parent’s urges and needs are met. They are places where all parties leave with a full cup – they are the vital mental health break in a day for mum or dad.

Lucy believes that enough SMF’s planned throughout each week can make the vital difference in whether we enjoy parenting, or not. Playgroups can fill this role: They provides a great space for social interaction, they allow time for parents to share their experiences, ideas and to support one another, they provides a routine that allows families to gather and interact and they fosters community spirit and assists social networks.

Here are some more words from another one of our families: “What do you think of when you hear the words ‘Beach School’? Do you think of children of all ages mixing together, reading sea stories, drinking tiny drinks they are able to make themselves, creating art works from found objects and digging on the beach? Do you think of adults chatting, sharing stories themselves, drinking hot tea and safely giving the children time to roam free? Because that’s what we did today and it was simple and perfect. Thank you Little Gulls for all that you do.” – Emily

I started Little Gulls because of the impact outdoor playgroups have had on my parenting experience and I hope to extend this to other families. Playgroups are a wonderful source of education and community.  So let’s celebrate the power of the playgroup.

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Time to breathe in: Making time for mindfulness & connection

Nature works in cycles. Every Summer has an Winter, every full moon has a new phase, every flow has an ebb. Exhale and inhale – for every breath out, we need to breathe in.


This week I finished my course to become a Natural Mindfulness Guide (hooray! ) and I’ve been thinking deeply about how we can more time to stop and breathe in during our busy family lives. In her book ‘Happy Child, Happy Home, Lou Harvey-Zahra describes striving for this balance well – ‘breathing out’ activities are more active: outings, big, noisy play and even structured learning activities. Whereas breathing in activities give us tune to slow down, connect and re-centre.

This metaphor of activities and breath has really resonated with me, especially after completing my Natural Mindfulness course. There we talked about the importance of breath and the importance of staying in breath – physically balancing our inhales and exhales. We talk about the problems caused by physically ‘out of breath’ – poor or ineffective breathing can stop our brains from working fully, it can allow waste products and toxins to remain in our body.  We can be burning more energy than we need to, our bodies are overwhelmed by stimulation and activities. Balanced breathe is required for us to fully function and maybe we need this balance between active ‘breathing out’ activities and more restful ‘breathing in’ activities to fully function too?

As a mother, I often find it hard to find the balance between breathing out and in activities, I feel like I am always striving for more time to be present and connect – especially for my school-aged child. However, as an outdoor educator, I’m also wondering if I have placed enough value on having time to breathe in. There is a lot of expectation to pack one exciting experience after another in to a session – when really having time to reconnect and to rest is of equal value to children and their families.? Especially when spending time in nature? I’m working on ways we can improve this balance in our Beach School sessions.

How do you build time to breath in during your sessions or your busy days? How do honour the natural cycle of activity and rest? I’d love to know.


I took my Natural Mindfulness Guide course (certified by the International Mindfulness & Meditation Alliance) with Ian Banyard, who I highly recommend working with for his knowledge and passion. Also written with love, honour and respect for Buddhist, Japanese and Yogic traditions upon which our western concept of natural mindfulness is based.

Six ways to make friends with the Wind

In our house we have a love/hate relationship with the wind – we admire the power of the wind to drive the many turbines out at sea, providing us with green electricity. We’re in awe of the power of wind to pollinate plants and disperse seeds. I am rather fond of the wind’s ability to blow away both literal and metaphorical cobwebs. I dream of sailing adventures. However, it can bring unsafe conditions on our beaches* and just plain rattles my children’s ears and bones, It can even knock my, otherwise sturdy, three year old over. But here on the coast, the wind is omnipresent –  the only way we can build a better relationship with the wind is to play with it.

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Wind comes from the Earth’s atmosphere equalising pressure – it’s the mass movement of air from a higher pressure to a lower pressure. Britain’s position on the edge of the Atlantic means we feel a lot of the prevailing winds.

Wind direction is usually expressed in terms of the direction from which it originates -for example, a northerly wind blows from the north to the south. The wind is usually measured using the Beaufort Scale and the Beaufort scale for land is a really useful starting point for judging when you need to start managing the risk, especially if you are in a woodland. On the beach we also use the Douglas Scale for measuring the wind sea state and judging whether it is safe to go on the beach.

If you are heading out in to the wind, wooly hats are essential to protect ears from those breezes. In particularly cold weather we recommend using the mantra “warm head, heart, hands and feet” as these are the parts of the body that feel the cold the most. Please layer up – it’s better to take extra layers off than to try and put more on when you are cold.

So how do we play with the wind? By involving it in our games and adventures. Here are six of our favourites:

1 – Making kites


One of our most popular Beach School activities is making kites. We’re with Mary Poppins on this one. We usually use this tutorial from Sussex Wildlife Trust, but we’ve found, with just a slight gust of wind, that our long-term Beach Schoolers will spontaneously make kites from almost anything.

Too young to safely manage the string of a kite? Try making a Waldorf-inspired hand kite.

2 – Stage a flying competition

One of the wonderful things about the wind is that it facilitates flight. Find some very light objects – feathers would be perfect, though leaves or helicopter seeds would also work. Hold the objects above your head and shout “3-2-1-GO!” and let go of your object. The winner has the object that has flown the furthest.

3 – Try an anemometer


Anemometers measure wind speed. They most commonly use cups or propellers which are rotated by the wind and will give you the wind speed in kilometres or miles per hour or sometimes even knots. Hand-held anemometers are a huge hit with children who love numbers, or just enjoy seeing things spin. We have this one in the Beach School kit and it’s perfect.

4 – Make your own wind chimes

Being a hippy-at-heart, I’m rather fond of hearing wind chimes tinkle away in the wind. I’ve seen tutorials for the made from old cutlery, old CDs and DVDs, though the simplest and cheapest has to be these beautiful ones made from sticks. And there will be more sticks around because of the wind. A win all round.

5 – Make a wind sock


Windsocks are used indicate wind direction – wind direction is usually expressed in terms of the direction from which it originates. Making a wind sock is a fun craft activity – there’s a fabulous tutorial here. However, if you are feel impatient or it just too windy where you are to get your craft on, simply tie some streamer to a stick and see which way they blow. This is also a great activity to introduce compass points too.

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6 – Being the Wind

Mindfulness practice often draws on the elements of nature and can deepen connection with nature. This exercise designed for preschoolers, but also suitable for older children, introduces ways of seeing the strength and beauty of nature within themselves, and an opportunity to relax and observe their experiences. I like this nature connection exercise from Mindful Magazine. Try reading it aloud to the small people in your life.

When we go outside we can see and feel so many wonderful things. Things like trees, and the wind, and the clouds, and the sun.

In many ways we are like these beautiful parts of nature, and for this exercise we’ll be like the tree and the wind and the sun.

Our body is like a tree. It grows and it is strong.
Our breath is like the wind. It flows in and out.
And the sun is like the part of us that is warm and kind.

So let’s lower or close our eyes and sit tall like a tree. We extend our hands way out and stretch our fingers, like branches and leaves. Let’s squeeze our fingers together and then let go and feel them wiggle, like they are blowing in the wind.

And now, with the wind blowing, let’s be like the wind and take a two big, slow breaths. Breathing in . . . and breathing out, blowing out the wind. Breathing in . . .  and breathing out, blowing out the wind.

And now the sun comes out and warms the tree and the wind. As it shines on the tree, we feel our body. Can you feel fingers and feel your toes? What else can you feel—just by noticing?

And as the sun shines on the wind, we feel our body breathing. Can you feel your belly moving up and down? Can you feel the air flowing in and out of your beautiful body?

And with the sun up high in the sky, brightening and warming the whole world, you too can warm the world—with your kindness!

Think of someone who can use a little kindness—like your sister or brother, or a friend, or your teacher. And as you think of them, wish for them, “May you be happy,” imagining them smiling like the sun.

You deserve happiness too. So now wish for yourself, “May I be happy,” and smile like the sun.

And as you smile like the sun, feel your body sitting tall like a tree and feel your breath blowing like the wind.

And then gently open your eyes and look around. You are amazing!

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*This post is written shortly after Storm Ciara rattled through the United Kingdom. If you have been adversely affected by the power of the weather, you are in our thoughts X

Embracing Animal Allies: Nurturing Nature Connection in Children

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Going bird watching is a classic outdoor learning activity. An easy lesson in local species and diversity, it plays a role in citizen science, often with a bit of maths thrown in to boot. However, wild birds (apart from our ubiquitous herring gulls) can be quite an illusive bunch, especially when they’re faced with a large bunch of effervescent small humans.

I’ve recently been on a personal journey to rekindle ‘play’ throughout my practice, in the fundamental belief it is the best way (the only way?) to fully engage small humans. We know that play is the way that children learn to interact with the world around them. Connecting children to the nature is seen as the key to positive environmental values and behaviours in adulthood.

Our role as educators is bond children with the natural world while making learning more intriguing. However, most young children already feel an playful empathy with wild and domestic animals. Their first impulse with some animals is to pick them up, hold them close, take care of them, become them, play with them. So I have started to reflect on my practice through this new playful lens. Is getting children to sit quietly and count birds really engaging for them? Is it going to create that meaningful connection? Is it joyful? Is it playful? Is it even developmentally appropriate?


My search for a more playful approach to outdoor learning led me to David Sobel. In his book ‘Children in Nature: Design Principles for Education’, Sobel believes that we risk future relationships with nature by focusing too heavily on classroom-based taxonomy of animals. He believes the goal, even through ages nine and ten, should be to foster close allegiances between children and animals. This means playing at being animals, interacting with animals, and taking care of animals.

Sobel talks about building on a child’s natural tendency to be an ‘animal ally’. He believes that children have strong feelings towards animals in the early and middle childhood and that these feelings are indicative of our evolutionary heritage, that relationships with flora and fauna are an integral part of feeling bonded to the matrix of the earth. Ultimately, we do not need to connect young children to nature, it is already intrinsic within them. We just have to ensure that we do not break that bond with a style of education that is not engaging for them.

Sobel also believes that we shouldn’t fear anthropomorphism. Projecting feelings and human characteristics onto animals can actually facilitate relationships, rather than distort them. It makes animals and people part of one larger family, with relationships and rules for sharing and taking care of each other. We can build on this in education as it is an incredible opportunity to create empathy, a feeling for other creatures that can develop into a willingness to care for other creatures.

Ultimately Sobel is calling on us to stop with the spotting, naming and counting and to inspire children on a deeper level through being and feeling, “in our environmental wars, the emphasis has been on saving species, not becoming them. If we aspire to developmentally appropriate science education, the first task is to become animals, to understand them from the inside out, before asking children to study them or save them.”

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So rather than birdwatching, for example, what could we do instead to build relationships with the natural world? We focusing on what actually appeals to children about a creature. In the case of birds – children are often mainly fascinated that birds can fly. So at Beach School, to make ourselves Animal Allies of we all built our own simple wings – build simply from cardboard and found feathers – at the end of term we had multiple seabirds taking flight around the White Cliffs.


Becoming a bird through creative play requires the child to engage with the species with empathy and with joy. The correct names and taxonomy of birds and animals are important and will come, there is more time in life for facts and figures. But if you engage with children at their developmental level of fascination, you can spark that natural empathy through feeling just like a bird.

Other ways to incorporate becoming an animal ally include:

  • Building homes and nests – either a real life home for the creature, like a bug hotel, or something where the children can imagine being the creature, like making a giant nest.
  • Opportunities for animal role play – through props like wings or masks, or through games that that involve being the animal through movement.
  • Activities that nurture the animal, like building feeders etc.

What is key is to come from a place of playful empathy. “What gets lost when we focus on facts are the initiation experiences. the moments of transcendence when the borders between the natural world and ourselves break down….John Burroughs puts it simply when he says, ‘Knowledge without love will not stick. But if love comes first, knowledge is sure to follow.'”

You can ignite a lifelong relationship, you can help them become an animal ally. Cognitive learning will follow, naturally.

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The Magic of Loose Parts – How to incorporate Loose Parts play in to everyday learning

Ever got frustrated that your child was more interested in the box than the Christmas present that was contained inside it? It’s because children have the most amazing unhindered imaginations. They are creative people that are able to make that simple box in to absolutely anything and everything. This is what we mean when we talk about ‘open ended play’ and the same is true when we talk about ‘Loose Parts’.

Loose Parts play simply refers to the use of loose objects, small or big, to enrich play. Objects can be based around a theme or can be sourced from the natural environment around the child. The Theory of Loose Parts was developed by a British Architect, Simon Nicholson in 1971, who saw that children would use any object to play with. Though the approach also reflects the philosophies of child-led and open-ended play advocated by Montessori and Loris Malaguzzi (the founder of Reggio Emilia).

Simon Nicolson said, “In any environment, both the degree of inventiveness and creativity, and the possibility of discovery, are directly proportional to the number and variables in it.” In other words, children like to play in settings where there are lots of things to do, lots of things to move and lots of things to create with.

Loose Parts themselves are the materials that can be moved, carried, combined, redesigned, lined up, and taken apart and put back together in multiple ways. The idea of ‘Loose Parts’ uses materials to empower a creative imagination. The more materials and individuals involved, the more ingenuity takes place. Exactly what happens when children use a box and packing in their play, rather than the box’s contents.

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Loose Parts can be:

Twigs and sticks, pine cones and fathers, pebbles and shells, the clean contents of your recycling bin, sheets, tyres, leaves, milk crates, guttering, feathers, dolly pegs, driftwood, pots and pans… The list in endless. Most of them can be found for free: try asking your families or community. Maybe you have access to a local scrapstore? I also pick up resources for pennies in charity shops.

Loose Parts should:

  • Have no defined use and play facilitators must support the children when they decide to change the shape or use of them.
  • Be accessible physically and stored where they can be reached by children without them having to ask for them. The children should know that they can use them whenever and however they wish.
  • Be regularly replenished, changed, and added to.
  • They can be used indoors or outdoors, wherever play takes place.

Loose Parts do not just facilitate smaller-scale creative play. Abundant loose parts for children to play with are central to the adventure playground ethos going back to the famous ‘junk playgrounds’ (known as ‘skrammellegeplad’ or ‘byggelegeplad’) first created in Denmark in 1943. If you have access to an outdoor area, you can incorporate this use of larger loose parts in to your setting, by setting larger pieces out to encourage open-ended play.

Importantly Loose Parts are open-ended and stimulate creativity and keen be used as an antidote to the rise of structured and formal learning in childhood. On the Beach and in the Forest, we are endlessly lucky as natural Loose Parts are abundant.


The Educator’s Role in Loose Parts Play

Wherever you are educating, be it outdoors or indoors, when children pick up ‘loose parts’ it can be anything they imagine it to be. This allows the children to have fun, experiment, discover, and invent new things. During the time the children are exploring loose parts, the adult’s role is to be an observer and researcher as well as to provide language. Loose parts play is a wonderful time to observe and assess what the children are playing with and how they are playing.

I have used Loose Parts throughout both my Beach and Forest School programmes. But I always start the programme with slightly more structured ideas and more signposting and the parts get ‘looser’ and more open-ended as the programmes go on – reflecting the growth in confidence in both the children and, particularly, their accompanying adults, in the child-led nature of the Forest School Process.


There are multiple ways you can link Loose Parts play to the Early Years Curriculum:

  • Problem Solving
  • Engineering
  • Creativity
  • Concentration
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Fine motor development
  • Gross motor development
  • Language and vocabulary building
  • Mathematical thinking
  • Scientific thinking
  • Literacy
  • Personal/ Social/emotional development

As with all new activities and materials, you will need to risk assess your Loose Parts:

  • Risk assess your resources as part of your daily checks
  • Model moving and carrying resources that are large and heavy
  • Add Loose Parts to your risk assessments, especially if you work with any oral learners. I have a risk assessment that covers this type of play with natural materials.

Many educators and parents worry about is managing loose parts. Like much of the best learning, things can look kind of messy and I appreciate not everyone works outside. Loose part management tips from Fairydust Teaching are:

  • Start small – offer limited materials to begin with and slowly add throughout the year
  • Modeling – show and practice how to get the materials out and how to put them away
  • Labeling – clearly label where all your loose parts live.


I have found Loose Parts play to be very liberating in both my parenting and my educational practice. It has given me a new found appreciation for ‘just playing with the box’. If you would like to know more, please check out the following:

Inspiring Scotland’s Loose Parts Play

The Wide School’s The Theory of Loose Parts –

Under 5s Beach School dates – Spring/Summer 2020

We’re looking forward to waking the Beach School up from hibernation. If you are looking forward to it as much as we are, here are our dates for the Spring and Summer:

Lenten Moon Term (March)

Friday 13th March and Friday 27th March 2020 (all 10am to Midday)

Booking opens Monday 3rd February 2020

Mothers Moon Term (May)

Friday 1st May and Friday 15th May 2020 (all 10am to Midday)

Booking opens Monday 30th March 2020

Rose Moon Term (June & July)

Friday 12th June, Friday 26th June and Friday 10th July 2020 (all 10am to Midday)

Booking opens Monday 18th May 2020

The terms names are taken from the medieval names for the Full Moon during those months.

We hope you can join us! Find more information about our Beach School groups here

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Have a Brew for 22q – 22q11 Deletion Syndrome and Forest School

22q11 Deletion Syndrome is a genetic condition that affects the lives of thousands of people. An estimated 35,000 people live with with 22q11 in the UK. It is one of the most common genetic conditions, after Downs Syndrome, but it is frequently misdiagnosed.

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One of our longest serving Beach Schoolers, ‘A’ was born with 22q11 and, with the permission of his parents,  on the 22nd November we will be joining Max Appeal’s ‘Have a Brew for 22’ raise awareness of this genetic condition.

22q11 is a disorder caused by a small piece of chromosome 22 missing.  However, the effects this missing piece of chromosome has is unique to every individual. 22q11 can cause heart defects, immune deficiency and anything from severe learning difficulties and developmental delay to mild behavioural problems. It can cause speech and language issues and swallowing problems. There are 180 anomalies caused by the deletion, and each individual could be affected by many of the anomalies (but not all of them) or just a few anomalies or actually have no discernible problems at all.

As 22q11 is a spectrum of disorders, as educators, we need to differentiate learning experiences for each individual with the condition. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach.  ‘A’ first joined Little Gulls aged 4 – At the time he was going through the EHC Plan assessment process and he had also recently been diagnosed as visually impaired. So I worked with his parents and used information from Appendix 1 of his EHCP application to write him an individual Risk Benefit Assessment for taking part in Beach and Forest School sessions.

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Thing we have put in place to support ‘A’s Beach and Forest School Experience have included:

  • Use of high contrast flags and bunting to clearly define the Beach and Forest School site boundaries;
  • Giving ‘A’ the option to join sessions early to give him time to familiarise himself with the surroundings and the Beach and Forest School rules before the session starts;
  • Ensuring there is support for ‘A’ during snack times and that he had adequate facilities and support for toileting;
  • Differentiating activities for ‘A’s more limited fine and gross motor skills.

Going forward, we may also work on inclusion and empathy skills with his peers, to ensure ‘A’ continues to have positive social experiences at our sessions. We may also consult his parents about how we can support his confidence and behaviour management. We will also continue to regularly review his individual Risk Benefit Assessment to ensure his needs are fully supported.

‘A’ is an incredible kinaesthetic and sensory learner and he absolutely thrives in the Beach and Forest School environments. It’s an absolute joy to have him attend our sessions and I, personally, have learnt so much from him. Hopefully, by raising awareness of 22q11, Max Appeal and we can continue to work together to remove barriers for people with this condition. Hope you can join us and Have a Brew for 22q.

*This post has been written with the full support and in consultation with ‘A’s parents. Thank you for the additional photographs.

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September at the Beach School

There was only one session of Beach School this September as I headed off to West Wales to have my own personal coastal adventure. However, we fully embraced our time on the beach with rockpooling, printing, kite making, homemade ‘telescopes’ and endless rounds of salt dough pizza.

Enjoy the slideshow of our September adventures:

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Celebrating October – The Mighty Conker

D7C54C4A-B2E6-4792-9035-6250C863B86AGoodness me, I love a conker. I love their glowing colour, their shiny skin. I love it when they have half of their casing still attached, wearing it proudly like a spiky helmet. I love to gather them and then, mindfully roll one around my palm, grateful for the beauty of the Autumn.

And I love a conker at work too – in the last couple of years we have drilled them, painted them, fashioned them legs out of clay, strung them up, wove around them, squished them and raced them down hills. At home I want to try using them to make a laundry soap, an ethical alternative to soapnuts. I’m also told they are magic enough to frighten away spiders, but I have no time for that. I love a spider. But I do so so love a conker

I’ve gather a basketful to take to Beach School on Friday – where our participants will be able to drill them and thread them to their hearts content. I’m really looking forward to seeing what they create. Last year I presented the conkers pre-drilled, but I think our current crop of Beach Schoolers are up for a challenge. And what an incredible way to interact with nature and hone those developing fine motor skills.

However, as widely reported in the news – our conkers, our horse chestnut trees are under threat from a number of diseases. You may have seen some where the leaves have turned brown early or have under developed conkers. So it’s probably best not to gather conkers more conkers than we need or to gather them from places where they have the chance to grow in to new trees.

So I gather conkers from the following places:

  • (Safely!) from pavements and roads, anywhere where they are likely to get squashed.
  • From trees in managed parks where the Council is likely to just gather and throw away the conkers or heavily mown areas where any saplings would have no chance of survival

I do not gather conkers from woodlands. I’m also keen to support our horse chestnut population, by taking part Conker Tree Science’s citizen science project. They have some brilliant resources for teachers and educators too.

In the meantime, I’m going to gaze lovingly at my basket of conkers. Grateful for the Autumn, grateful for the seasons and grateful for magic nature brings us.


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Social & Emotional Learning at Beach School

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The Under 5s Beach Schoolers at St Margaret’s Bay

When I was a home-educator*, the most frequently asked question was about how my child would socialise. It felt like a bit of a preoccupation with any form of slightly alternative education. A holistic school or nursery setting can provide many social opportunities for children. However, it is really not the only way children can learn to socialise.

At the Beach School we encourage our participants to play independently together. Our natural setting, provides a calm environment where children can play without the distractions of noise and other stressors that they may encounter indoors or in other settings. It can be tricky because the relationships between young children often don’t look like adult ones – our idea of socialising isn’t often one that’s developmentally appropriate to them. Here’s how Beach School supports their social & emotional development:

  • They have the opportunity to wait turns, share, negotiate and to deal with anger and frustration. And we respect and support them with this learning process.
  • Through clear boundaries and lots of free play – the children can develop a separate sense of self and their own individuality, in their own way. Between 2 and 5 is a prime age for this.
  • We have mixed-age groups – our current bunch of beach schools range from 18months to 7 years old (plus some babe-in-arms siblings). With their different developmental stages, the younger children learn from watching the older children and the older children learn to emphasise with the younger ones. Our trained Beach School practitioners model empathy.

Because we provide free play opportunities, we have no preconceived notions of how the children should play. We understand that it can take years for small children to learn how to successfully engage with another child for more than a minute or two. We also have neuro-diverse participants who feel more comfortable socialising in different ways.

Inspired by Janet Lansbury, we nurture this learning process by offering our children opportunities for experimentation, we trust them as much as possible, and resist our urge to over-intervene, because that can hinder their developing self-confidence. Our Beach School participants have ownership and control of their sessions. They are encouraged to challenge themselves, but also have free choice of which activities they take part in. They have control, which supports their self-esteem and emotional development. They learn to socialise in a way that is entirely developmentally appropriate. We believe in nurturing social skills that are personal and individual. We don’t believe there is one way to socialise and that’s what our Beach Schoolers learn.

If you’d like to read more about how we learn at the Beach School, you can find all the posts in the ‘Beach Schooled’ series here.

*We no longer home educate.