Wild Things Nursery
Two children and an adult running along grass
The Western Isles might not immediately strike most people as the most obvious honeymoon destination however it was to Monty’s Cottage in North Uist that Emily Durie and her husband Alex escaped to after they’d tied the knot. Fast forward four years and Emily was in her own house, running a croft, raising her family on the island and working on a great idea to get children back into the Uist outdoors.

A teacher, who has specialised in outdoor learning, Emily has worked with Ùrachadh Uibhist and developed the concept of having the children learning outside, in all weathers. Originally, due to space constraints this idea of using the outdoors as an alternative ‘room’ has proved popular with the children, their parents and nurseries across all of our islands. Emily worked on a feasibility study for the Wild Things Nursery with Ùrachadh Uibhist. Her developments were rolled out to all five of our island nurseries and her findings showed the project as a great success.

It’s recommended that children should spend at least five hours outside per day, which in the modern world proves difficult to achieve. Emily hopes to make this a reality for the preschool children of Uist through the Wild Things Nursery. “To use the natural resources available to you then play can go anywhere. A fish crate can be a rocket, a boat, a seat or anything you imagine it to be.” Everybody’s idea is useful and valid when they have no barriers.

Children playing with chalks on a rock

Over the last few years the weather has never kept Emily and her hardy nursery children indoors and they haven’t cancelled a single play session yet. Instead, with all-weather suits and plenty of layers, the kids brave the elements in any conditions to keep their imaginations and explorations alive. There have only been two rescheduled locations to the more sheltered North Uist woodland and to the Claddach Kirkibost Centre. “Children learn about environmental changes throughout the year. They’ve taken whatever the weather has thrown at them and had a cracking time and they see that it’s ok to get cold” If they want to make a den and it’s too windy then they have to work together and try and solve the problem using what’s available to them in the landscape and the natural resources which surround them.

“There is value in children feeling bored and there is so much outside to engage them. All kids know how to play and walls can be restrictive” Throughout lockdown, Emily has been designing rainbow trails and wildlife trails for families to discover and explore together. These are in Loch Sgioport, Island Flodda, Scolpaig and Lochmaddy and many families have taken the journey to explore and imagine through these trails together.

In the future, The Wild Things Nursery hopes to continue to expand and encourage children and their families to explore and appreciate our natural environment, bringing people together with nature to see and learn about the beauty on our doorstep.

You can follow, take part and learn more about the trails and activities of the Wild Things Nursery online.

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