We got back to nature at Nature Tots. It’s a friendly, volunteer led outdoor group held at the Nature Discovery Centre in Thatcham. Aimed at children age 18months – 4 years, the volunteers were so helpful and full of knowledge of the habitat around the lakes. They knew all the different species of trees and plants around, and could explain the tree life cycle to children in an easy way.
The group started by sitting in a circle under the wooden hut structure. One of the volunteers talked to the children about autumn and what things change in nature. This was a brilliantly engaging talk with probs. The volunteer shown the children acorns, conkers, rose hips, berries, and seeds. They talked about each one and explained what tree it came from and how the tree changes according to the season, and what animals might eat them. The children got to hold each item as well. My son George loves learning about the changing seasons. Then we joined in with an action song about harvesting crops. George especially loved this as he is a bit obsessed with farming at the minute!
One of the volunteers was Anita Loughrey, a children’s books author. She read one of her own books to the children called ‘Squirrel Autumn Search’. This was the perfect book for the new season. It was all about autumn and the things you can find.
Different activities were set up in the hut area. One activity was sorting seeds and matching them to pictures. This was brilliant for fine motor skills, as they had to pinch out individual seeds to match with the pictures. Another activity was making a haystack picture. They were given a picture of a farmer sitting in front of an outline of a haystack, which had double-sided sticky tape on. There were trays of hay for the children to use to stick to their haystack. I thought this was such a brilliant original idea!
Next the children were each given a bucket and were sent on a nature treasure hunt. George found lots of acorns and acorn hats! He also found rose hips, feathers, mushrooms, blackberries, and different leaves. Each led to an interesting conversation with the volunteers about where they had come from.
Then we walked along the stream and across the meadow area, to the orchard. In the orchard the volunteers had set up an animal hunt activity. Each child was given a laminated sheet of animal pictures to find, and a white board pen to tick them off. George loved running around the orchard looking in all the fruit trees and long grass for the animals. He was the first one to find all of them! He was very proud of himself and even drew some of the animals on the back of his page.
From the orchard area we walked to the quite wooded area. In here the volunteers had again set up different activity areas. There was a mud pit area for digging for worms, there were water crayons for bark rubbings, there was a block stacking area, and a painting with berries set up! George really enjoyed the block stacking. The blocks were made out of natural branches that had been chopped down. He really enjoyed the challenge of getting them to balance, and was so impressed with himself when he managed to get two long ones to stack.
The group is held once a month, each month focusing on a different aspect of the season. The next session is going to be about hedgehogs, we can’t wait!
The Nature Discovery Centre has a fantastic visitor centre with a shop and café. There are toilets available with baby changing facilities. There are good walking trails around the lakes, a bit bumpy and muddy in places so I would bring welly’s. I think must buggies would be ok on this surface, it is more rough and gravelly in some areas around the lake though. There are bird hides dotted around the lake so you can sit in peace and watch nature.
Find all the toddler groups in Thatcham and Newbury.