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Little girl in nature with grandparents

Deep Roots New Shoots

The early years are crucial for children’s development and early experiences shape the way we think and react for the rest of our lives. That’s why we’ve developed a programme of nature-based play activities for under-5s and their families, making use of our gardens to provide rich opportunities to learn, explore and connect with the natural world.

Nature-based play

Deep Roots New Shoots logo

Here at the Eden Project under-5s and their families and carers can get involved in a variety of specially designed activities, from music sessions in the Med Biome to a weekly toddler club in our magical wild perimeters for parents and under-5s and grandparents and under-5s, where together we celebrate the great outdoors.

The sessions provide a safe and inspiring space where parents, grandparents and carers can come, feel welcome, play, engage, and meet others through activities such as storytelling, outdoor play, craft activities, and exploring Eden’s wonderful gardens.

We’re even starting yoga sessions for parents with new-borns – who are referred to us by their GP or health visitor – which combine exercise to support post-natal recovery and a walk in our gardens to help participants unwind and connect.

quote

Participant

“It was outdoor fun, fantasy and education for my grandson… supervision and guidance from the well prepared leaders enabled me to enjoy the tranquil setting and time to relax with other grandparents.”

Grandparents playing outside

Why early years?

The foundations for virtually every aspect of human development – physical, intellectual, and emotional – are laid in early childhood. What happens during these early years has lifelong effects on many aspects of health and wellbeing, from educational achievement and economic status to obesity, heart disease and mental health.  A generation of children is in danger of losing their connection with nature. If they don’t care for nature, why should they want to save it? This programme works to create enquiring minds and a love of nature in young children and their carers.

Why grandparents?

We set up our grandparent-toddler club because grandparents play an increasingly important role in supporting their extended and working families, with 63% of grandparents who have grandchildren (that are aged under 16) now providing regular childcare. Grandparents are highly motivated to create experiences for their grandchildren, but many are still working themselves.

They may lack confidence, as significant time may have passed since they took responsibility for a small child, they are often isolated from their peers by childcare responsibilities and might feel uncomfortable attending standard childcare groups. Some may also struggle with the physicality of looking after a toddler.

 

Did you know?

A child’s early years has lifelong effects on health and wellbeing, from educational achievement and economic status to obesity, heart disease and mental health.

Working with disadvantaged families in Cornwall 

The natural environment is one of Cornwall’s greatest assets and yet there are many local families who cannot access the health, well-being and educational benefits it provides. Thanks to funding from the Masonic Charitable Foundation Early Years Fund, we’re working in partnership with leading charities and agencies in Cornwall – Wild Young Parents Project, Kernow Youth, Mumatoo and St. Austell Healthcare – to ensure that disadvantaged families can access activities at Eden which support early years development and create connection to the natural world.

The activities encourage shared interaction between parent and child and connection to nature, providing a safe and stimulating environment to notice, talk and learn. The principles of the Early Years Foundation Stage are incorporated into every activity, and each session is themed, giving a reason to explore, a sense of purpose and creating connection to what families see and experience.  

If you are a charity or agency working with families who could benefit, please contact etolley@edenproject.com

Advice for other organisations 

At a time when children no longer have the outdoor play opportunities of previous generations, there are nevertheless so many possibilities for organisations such as botanical gardens and museums – with their accessible, usable, safe spaces – to creating magical learning experiences for, and with, their young visitors. 

That’s why we’ve put together the publication Wondering Allowed, so that we can share our experience of pioneering this work with grandparent carers. Many of the insights we gained are equally relevant to working with pre-school children and other family adults. 

We hope you find this publication useful in your own organisation and that it encourages you to create opportunities for wonder-filled visits with young children, no matter who they visit with.

You may also be interested in a special report Parents Helping Parents, put together by our funders, Nesta, about how the power of parents and their communities can be harnessed to better support families with young children. Using examples such as our programme it outlines how parent power can enhance family support, and suggests how we can embed parent power in and alongside great public services.

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