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A Winter's Den

When we talk about Mucky Boots, some people wonder how the children get on playing in the same spaces, day after day, year round with no toys and very few resources. ‘Don’t they get bored?’ ‘What do they do all day?’


We are incredibly fortunate to have our Kindergarten in a community-owned woodland with an ever-changing environment. We don’t need to rotate toys or plan ‘topics’ to hold the children’s interest. The environment entrances them much better than any planning sheet or resource cupboard I have seen in my 15 year teaching career.


We start every day in our woodland base, which allows us to experience the benefits of caring for one place while experiencing its seasonal changes. Sometimes we then go for an adventure in the woods; sometimes we stay to tend and play in our base, exploring the changes that time brings to our place.

In December, a child discovered this new den near our base when he wanted to explore a very special piece of ice alone, away from the eyes (and hands!) of his peers. It’s a great space with a sense of enclosure from the sheltering branches above and around. Winter is the only time of year this particular space is accessible- the rest of the time, the dense undergrowth makes it inaccessible.

Before long, the child's friends found his hiding spot and quietly joined him by walking over and around the surrounding logs. A shared period of quiet contemplation then followed, with each child exploring their piece of ice. Some comments were made; whether friends heard them or not is unknown. And that didn’t matter to the children sharing the space. It will be interesting to see if the children continue to use this space as time goes on. With enough use, the undergrowth with be trodden enough to create a new space--a new space made by, and for, our children.

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Kirkton of Maryculter, Aberdeen AB12, UK

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