We always try to make the most of the natural setting here at Another Place and take the children out into the grounds as much as possible. Children of all ages love throwing stones into the lake; listening for the splash and watching the ripples. We go on nature hunts, too, with bingo sheets for spotting different colours and species around the grounds. It’s about encouraging children to take notice of their surroundings, and to start naming all the different plants and trees we find. We also track animal footprints in the mud and think about what sort of creature made them, where’s it going, where does it live?
We never let a bit of rain stop play! We’ve got lots of wellies for the children to borrow and full sets of waterproofs.
In the evenings, we’ll go down into the grounds with the older children and sit around the fire. Everybody’s got a backpack and a head torch, and we’ll have hot chocolate and look at the stars. Because the skies are so dark here, with barely any light pollution, it’s perfect for stargazing. But equally, if we plan an activity and I think, ‘No, these children aren’t showing the interest,’ we just go and do something else. It’s not like school, with set lessons.
Our indoor space is very chilled and cosy, with beanbags and soft rugs on the floor. In term time, our cabin area is for under 5s, so it’s all about sensory play – lots of singing and books. In the evening, when it’s for 3-to-7-year-olds, we change the resources around so we’ve got more jigsaws, a creative area, and lots of role play. There’s a kitchen, a garage and a dolls’ house. Then we have a ‘loose parts play’ area, with tubes, boxes, fir cones, string…and children can just see where their imagination takes them.
For our 8–12-year-olds, we have The Den: a purpose-built area with games like darts, a pool table and an air-hockey 3-in-1 table. We also have facilities for cooking with them, and are about to add a new chill out area with sofas for older children.