Who We Are
We are Alison Latta and Debbie Simmers, the founders of Woodland Outdoor Kindergartens. We have been best friends since meeting at Primary School, almost 40 years ago now! We have fond memories of playing outside as children, in particular for long periods of time with minimal adult intervention and direction. Our parents allowed us to explore freely in our gardens, back lanes and beyond without the need for planned activities and gadgets to keep us occupied. We had dens and hide-outs and established our own clubs and games. We got muddy and only came home when we were hungry.
We both now have our own young families and several years ago, as mothers returning to work after the birth of a first child, were faced with the daunting prospect of researching and choosing the best possible childcare option. All the nurseries we visited were well equipped, clean and friendly, however, what struck us both was the amount of stimulation present, especially for a young child. Most of the nurseries had lots of bright colours on all the walls, a vast choice of toys and play equipment, lots of adult led activities and were, understandably, also quite noisy. Most of the outdoor play areas we saw were dominated by large items of play equipment and were not always accessible to children every day, and often only for an hour or so at a time. With these observations in mind we began thinking about what the ideal nursery/pre-school would look like.
As a result of articles in the press we were aware of the various national incentives to encourage increased outdoor play in early childhood, particularly free play. We had read articles about ‘nature-deficit disorder’ and the growing concern for young children who were being brought up and educated by screens and adult led educational activities. From what we read we became convinced that long periods of time spent outdoors without lots of toys and adult direction was really good for children, in particular young children. We also became aware of the early years education approach in other European countries, mainly Scandinavia and Germany, where children attend nature kindergartens (you can read more in our Ethos section). We researched this concept further and realised that as a working parent we would love the opportunity to know that while we sat indoors at our desk our child was running around in the forest playing on a pirate ship or making a fairy den. Our lives with young children are busy lives where children don’t always have enough time to wind down and relax in their own company, or play freely with other children. Once they start school opportunities for this decrease and many children don’t even have the opportunity to walk to and from school. We believed that if our child could spend their day in the peaceful woods with time to think and reflect it would be beneficial to them.
During our research we learned about two nature kindergartens/outdoor nurseries that had recently opened in Scotland, however, both were located in very rural areas a couple of hours from Glasgow. We were disappointed to find that there was no outdoor kindergarten option for parents in Glasgow. We had become so convinced that an outdoor kindergarten would be the best option for our own children that we spent the next year establishing Woodland Outdoor Kindergartens, the first outdoor nursery in an urban area. We were officially opened by Adam Ingram MSP, Minister for Children and Early Years, in 2009.
We are delighted that our own children were able to enjoy such a magical pre-school experience. We hope you too will enjoy the benefits that an outdoor kindergarten has to offer children and look forward to welcoming you to WOK.
Debbie and Alison