We're very lucky here in Surrey that we have lots we can do with our little ones. We have a whole array of lovely places around here to help us entertain them, be it parks with adventure playground, a soft play centres, theme parks, local farms and play trails.
And then there are the organised toddler groups, drop-in playgroups, and a huge array of classes from classical music to art to street dance. With 2 boys, my eldest now 5, i've been lucky enough to try most of the classes on offer. But there's one group that's head and shoulders above the rest, and is teaching our youngest son some wonderful life skills too. And that's Boxhill Bugs.
We discovered Boxhill Bugs just over a year ago. The idea is that once a week during term-time, for around 45 minutes, come rain or shine (or snow!) we stick on our wellies and get out into the beautiful countryside that is Boxhill. Run by the National Trust and lead by the multi-talented Catherine McCusker, the lovely Sarah Hartley and their team of volunteers, we learn all about the wildlife, plants, trees and even the people that make Boxhill one of the treasures of the South of England.
Aimed at toddlers and preschoolers, Catherine and Sarah introduce a new theme each week, with elements of the EYFS scheme that helps little ones in their development. The 'Bug Zone' is an area demarcated for use as a play area with logs to sit on, a mud kitchen, and often a crafts area such as painting or clay modelling (the teasel hedgehogs was a particular highlight!). The children are encouraged to explore, hand in hand with their grown up, and jump in the puddles, squish the mud and pick up the bugs. In fact, B is so enthusiastic about these bugs that he now quite happily 'rescues' spiders from the house and sets them free in the garden for me. Bonus!
We've made suet pine cone bird feeders, leaf lamps, pom pom bats and intricate wooden wind chimes, we've squelched bare footed in muddy trays, learnt to identify different bird calls, floated milk bottle top boats, found oak and birch and sycamore leaves, counted dew-covered spiderwebs, and seen field mice and even a baby badger up close (a real one, albeit frozen...!) We've buried ourselves in crunchy leaves as hedgehogs, used our sense of smell as insects and small animals searching for their food, packed up a mini picnic in handkerchiefs and carried them on sticks on an adventure. We've counted bees that were living in a huge tree on the side of the hill, seen the rare butterflies that breed in the tall grasses below the view point, and found all sorts of insects and bugs hiding in little hidden places we would have otherwise never known existed. Through this hands on-learning, B's knowledge of nature is now pretty amazing at 3 1/2 years old, and the confidence he has gained from stomping through woodland, down windy paths and climbing trees is just wonderful to see.
But I think the most important thing that we've both learnt from Bugs through our hands on experiences is a respect for nature and the stunning ecosystem we have around us. It is absolutely fascinating. I have to say that until 6 months or so ago I always found it far easier to entertain the boys indoors, but now I see how important it is to get them outside and exploring, learning about the world by experiencing it for themselves. And for B and I, hand in hand, we're loving every moment. These memories are truly priceless. Thank you Bugs!!
With love, Rachel xx
For more information and details for booking Boxhill Bugs, see https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/box-hill/features/box-hill-bugs
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