Q&A with Wild Child – Childminding

20 December 2023


This week’s guest blog is from Wild Child – Childminding Adventures. In this blog we sat down with the team to find out more on how they are bringing outdoor play into their setting! If you work within a child minding setting, this blog is for you!

Can you introduce yourselves and briefly tell us about what you do and what Wild Child –  Childminding Adventures ethos is?

Jacqueline: Hi our names are Jacqueline, Lynnette and Lorna and we have been qualified Childminders for 17 years. We also have Forest Kindergarten qualifications and have worked very hard to raise the standard of our Childminding services to provide professional childcare when we meet up at our outdoor Childminding group.

Lorna: We love the outdoors and enjoy inspiring children to enjoy playing and learning outdoors and loving their natural world. Our children arrive at our homes in the morning and most days we travel in the car and meet up in various locations for outdoor adventures.

Lynnette: We have very low ratios of 1 childminder to 3 early years children, this means we can listen closely to each child and respond immediately. Within each of our settings and when we meet up in the group, we observe close friendships and bonds being formed and we feel that is really special.

Lorna: We supplement outdoor forest kindergarten activities by bringing along familiar activities and toys we know our children are interested in.

Lynnette:  When outdoors we consistently provide all the love, care, support and nurture for each child’s individual needs. Because we are in a group we support each other to ensure children are always safe and secure.

Jacqueline: On the occasional days when the rain or wind is very stormy we stay cosy indoors and do fun learning activities or play with toys.

What inspired you to do Forest Kindergarten training and establish Wild Child – Childminding Adventures?

Lynnette: During the pandemic, places we used to meet up at were closed and we could only meet up outdoors. We started taking children outdoors for longer periods in different weather and to different green spaces.

Lorna: We did a lot of our own research and realised we needed equipment to ensure both us and our children stayed warm, dry and comfortable.  Gradually over a period of time we bought our own trolleys, dry bags, tarpaulins, tents, ropes, swings, water containers, waterproofs, outdoor first aid kits, blankets, hand warmers, warm inner and outer clothing and footwear.

Jacqueline: We wanted to provide professional childcare while outdoors and become properly qualified, so we did the Forest Kindergarten training.

Lynnette: Even when the pandemic restrictions lifted we realised we all preferred outdoor play rather than visiting softplays and indoor playgroups. We could see the children enjoyed it more because we observed them being better friends, happier and calmer.

Jacqueline: The Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter account, website and Sway we created enables us to share our adventures and creative fun with prospective families and the general public.

Lorna: We enjoy connecting with other outdoor childcare professionals and we are so glad for those with shared values who are always happy to answer any questions and provide us with support.

Lynnette: We are pleased to be in line with Scottish government guidance as they are in full support of giving children opportunities to spend longer times outdoors.

What do you feel is the difference in your service and / or practice since setting up WildChild – Childminding Adventures?

Lorna: We are better prepared to spend time outdoors and embrace the benefits come rain or shine. We’ve learnt that there is something beautiful in every day and you don’t have to wait for sunny weather to do outdoor activities.

Jacqueline: We quickly noticed the benefits of meeting up more regularly with each other instead of being lone workers.  We support each other and provide companionship, share ideas and help each other resolve issues.

Lynnette: There are also huge benefits to the children meeting up as a group giving them opportunity to mix with others and make friends. We teach our children how to listen and respect each other, share, take turns and how to learn vocal skills necessary for getting on with others.

Jacqueline: We always make sure the trees or play equipment are safe and the area is free from any rubbish, sharp objects or animal waste. We teach our children to keep themselves safe by involving them to fill in a simple site risk assessments check list.

Lorna: We wake up and feel energised and keen to discover what is in store in each new day. Every day is a learning day for us too.

Lynnette: We have noticed that ourselves and our children have better health and mental well-being. It is a known fact that outdoors has a calming effect and we have noticed children are less frustrated and are better behaved.  Children with sensitivity to noise or over stimulation respond very well as often indoor nurseries create sensory overload.

Lorna: Feedback from our parents is always positive. For example – “my child is less wild since attending” and “my daughter runs away from me in the morning and loves meeting her friends at forest group”.

Jacqueline: Children enjoy the freedom to explore and gain confidence using what is free and readily accessible. We enjoy gardening and watching and tending for the plants as they grow. Children enjoy the magical experience of picking and eating fruit and vegetables right off the plant.

Lynnette: We are able to go at a slow steady child led pace and allow conversations and activities to go with the flow on the day.

Jacqueline: Recently during a foraging session where we were picking blackberries, one child noticed that his fingers were purple and said “this is like paint!” so we used this opportunity to further enhance learning. We offered the children paper and they enjoyed the tactile squishing and pressing and making finger print art work so they could practice mark making.

Lynnette: One child spontaneously took off her socks and shoes and squished the berries under her feet. The other children joined in too and they had such a laugh together. They held hands to help each other balance in the tray and we encouraged them to take turns. Afterwards they helped each other clean their feet and took turns to pump warm soapy water from the water containers we carry in our trollies.

Jacqueline: Going barefoot for brief moments during activities offers an interesting sensory experience, I heard my child say “my feet feel all tingly!“.

Lorna: One of my boys often feels tired after lunch and if he needs a rest he can have a cuddle on my knee or have a lie down in the aerial swing or hammock. The children really love the tree swings and tree climbing. We are always close by to supervise and support learning new skills if needed and we teach our children to independently assess their own risks and move lower down if they feel unsafe.

Your newsletter talks about the benefits of outdoor play that you have witnessed in the children you work with, what have been some of your WOW moments?

Lorna: We actually have lots of WOW moments throughout each day, some are small and some we will remember forever.

Lynnette: The children really blow us away with the knowledge that they retain especially when parents can relay the conversation they have had with their children in the evenings. We had one child ask us if she could learn more about butterflies and bees which of course we did. Then her parent listened and supporting the same learning topic at home.  It proves we are really getting it right for every child by supporting the full circle of learning.

Jacqueline: Another moment that blew me away and reduced me to tears was when a parent sent a beautiful card saying how much we have made a difference to their child’s life. She wrote she is very lucky to have found us as my service and group meet ups has helped her child settle down and excel. She also told us about the difference it has made for her going to work knowing that we are providing the outdoor environment that her child feels more at ease in.

Lynnette: I remember recently the head of a nursery said to me “you have the dream job as you can give support to children, parents and families”.

Jacqueline: It is so nice to get positive feedback. We spend an unbelievable amount of time on our jobs in the evenings to ensure we provide a high quality service.  We do training, reading new policies and guidance, cleaning, creating positive behaviour support plans, recording observations, updating child development plans and planning fun activities to ensure children are progressing their development.

Lorna: I really enjoy providing valuable support to my children and their families. This has been the case for one of my children who is currently being assessed for Autism. His mum jokingly told me “you are never allowed to go on holiday ever again as I couldn’t cope without you!”.

What advice would you give other Childminders who are keen to do more outdoor learning? Any top tips?

Lorna: My advice is – be brave and give it a go because routines and habits are meant to be challenged and changed to stay up to date.

Jacqueline: By reaching out and asking for help or advice you will be amazed how helpful the outdoor childcare community are. It’s so worth getting outdoors more not only for your own mental health and wellbeing but for all those up and coming little geniuses of the future.

Lorna: Don’t be put off by the cold or a rain shower. Be prepared and get good quality suitable clothing and equipment.

Lynnette: Be individual and unique. There are many different styles of childminding and there shouldn’t be any competition between us.  Different styles are needed to suit the needs of each family.

Finally, what is next for Wild Child? Dreams? Challenges?

Lorna: We keep coming up against challenges and everything we try is a saga because the concept of Childminders meeting up to deliver professional outdoor childcare is new. Thankfully the three of us work brilliantly together as a team and we plan to keep pushing forward and supporting each other to overcome any problems that arise.

Lynnette: We have read in the blue print the Scottish Government are looking for innovative ways to change how childcare can be accessed by parents. We dream of getting support from the Scottish Government and from the Care Inspectorate and be part of the pilot in developing a new model of group outdoor Childminding.

Jacqueline: We would love to be involved in the trial for when the pilot is rolled out by Upstart Scotland when they make the school age 6/7.

Lynnette: We would love to obtain and develop our own green space with a log cabin and outdoor shelter.

Lorna: We would also really benefit from accessing grants to support us in getting new durable equipment. We’ve recently seen another outdoor childcare provision receive funding from a large charity and its something we would also dream of.

Lynnette: Our training and our qualification means the care and learning we provide is most beneficial to early years children. One of the barriers that we have come across is that parents traditionally send their children to pre school nursery 5 days a week and are unaware Childminders can also provide curriculum learning.

Lorna: Sadly opportunities for Childminders are being missed.

Jacqueline: Another major difficulty is that Council nurseries are being filled with funded children only and we have to work very hard to campaign for 3 and 4 year olds to attend our services.

Lorna: We tirelessly educate parents and use social media to advertise our services as being a valid childcare option.

Lynnette: We are in the process of tackling this problem as we are in discussion with a university student film maker about creating a short informative marketing documentary which would highlight the work we do for parents to make an informed choice of the right blend of childcare to suit their child.

Jacqueline: With good marketing and proper advertising we could raise the profile of outdoor Childminding. Parents would learn of the high quality experiences, rich learning and benefits of being outdoors.

Lynnette: Moving forward is so important, as our children deserve to benefit from innovative ways to learn and grow and for us to enable the change for the future of early years learning. Maybe we should write a book of our journey too!

All: Thank you for being interested and for reading about us!

We are very excited to offer a new alternative choice of Childminding to parents in the Falkirk area  with nurturing child led, play based curriculum learning in our homes and during our group outdoors adventures.