Family matters: childminding

Childminders Danielle Franklin and Sarah Kenna crouched down in a wooded area with a pattern made from natural materials on the ground in front of them

Childminders Danielle Franklin and Sarah Kenna on how Forest School – where trained practitioners support children to explore, discover and learn through hands-on experiences – opened a world of opportunities for the children they look after

We’ve got nearly 30 years of childcare experience between us, and every day is still different. We live nearby, so we often co-mind children. We like to ask the children what they’d like to do. It’s usually something outside, whatever the weather!

We were increasingly convinced of the importance of giving children time in nature when we found out about Forest School. We do lots of work with Bright Start and the council and they agreed to fund our training. We jumped at the chance.

It started during Covid, when we had to change the way we do things. Many families don’t have a garden, so time outside was top priority. We started using local spaces, like King Henry’s Walk.

At Forest School, children are given experiences they can’t get elsewhere. They get their hands dirty, use mud and grass to make artwork and connect with nature.

We’ve made friends with the squirrels in Highbury Fields – the children call them and they come and play hide and seek! Parents comment on how enthusiastic their children are about it and how all that fresh air makes bedtimes much easier.

Forest School is free for under-fives and runs Monday to Saturday, 10am–12noon. For childcare support, contact the Family Information Service (FIS) on 020 7527 5959 or visit the FIS website.

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