Wonderbloom Nature Nursery offers a ‘forest school’ approach at its two sites in Woking, Surrey. Children are encouraged to learn outside virtually all the time, giving them the opportunity to explore the natural environment.

Sammy Rogers, co-founder and education director, says, “We are inspired by this approach as it provides children with regular and prolonged access to outdoor space. It also promotes physical activity – larger, open spaces allow for children to move and develop their individual physical skills however they wish to. We provide resources to support children to walk, run, climb, manoeuvre and navigate spaces, ride trikes and scooters and so on. We believe outdoor exploration and play are valuable in all seasons including winter.”

Weather conditions are assessed and whenever possible, the children are taken outside. Parents are asked to make sure the children are wearing appropriate clothing. Outdoor winter activities include nature walks, sensory experiences with snow, observing winter wildlife and engaging in winter themed games and sports. Wonderbloom also incorporates elements of Montessori education, which focuses on hands-on learning, self-directed play and individualised instruction.

Well-balanced meals are provided to meet the nutritional needs of growing children. The morning meal includes whole grain cereals, toast and fruit. Catering company Slice of Pie provides seasonal hot lunch-time meals on a three-week rotation, exposing children to a wide variety of flavours. Dishes include fruity lamb tagine, served with cous cous and vegetables and home-made sausage balls in a tomato sauce with cannellini beans. Sammy says “By encouraging exploration and trying new foods, we aim to broaden children’s culinary horizons and foster a positive attitude to healthy eating.”

At 4pm, children enjoy a snack they have prepared themselves, guided by staff, who provide instructions and demonstrations, with the emphasis on fresh ingredients. Sammy adds, “The children’s involvement is not only about the end result, but also the process itself, allowing them to foster a sense of pride, autonomy and an appreciation for the effort that goes into making a meal.” The snacks prepared can be easily assembled or involve minimal cooking such as fruit salad, vegetable platters, sandwiches or wraps, smoothies or simple salads.

At the nursery in Sheerwater, Woking, which opened in March this year, an allotment area provides an environment for children to learn about food production cycles and develop basic gardening skills. Fruit, vegetables and herbs are grown depending on the season, climate, as well as the children’s own interests.

Sammy says, “One of the advantages of having an allotment is that children learn where food comes from, how it grows and the effort and care it requires to look after and grow it.” Under the supervision of staff, children are encouraged to get involved in the allotment and participate in a variety of gardening tasks. Home-grown produce from the allotment is incorporated into the snacks prepared by the children as much as possible. Sammy says, “While
the amount of produce can vary depending on the seasons and the yield, we do make an effort to use what the children have grown themselves into their cooking activities. This offers them the pleasure of enjoying snacks and lighter meals with ingredients they have been helping to grow.”

Parents and carers are invited for “stay and play” sessions where children are given the opportunity to share their achievements.