Little Foxes is a pre-school provider based in the historic woodland at Stoke Park estate and provides nursery education and childcare for 34 three and four year olds. The pre-school was set up and is managed by Lizzie Staite, Julie Wheeler and Janie Ankers.

Little Foxes aim to spend the majority of each day in the woodland (unless the weather is too inclement to ensure the children’s safety). This means meeting up with the children first thing in the morning, walking with them across the meadow to the forest school location, setting up small key group activities linked to the children’s interests, followed by free play until lunchtime.

The daily hot vegetarian lunch is made in collaboration with the children, who help with the food preparation ready for a staff member to cook on the campfire. This might include cooking bread dough on sticks, making their own veggie parcels or grating cheese or courgettes for the pasta dishes. After lunch, there is the opportunity for more group activities and free play until it’s time to walk back to Little Foxes’ base, where parents collect their children.

Activities on offer every day include hammering, woodwork, making wooden beads, threading and mud painting. Little Foxes employ an artist in residence, Freya Morgan, who recently led on creative activities during an art focus week and supported the children to create a giant willow structure of a fox. The children helped to cut and weave willow sticks and secure them in place, helping the development of their fine motor skills. Artist Freya also explained that the willow structure activity not only helped the development of children’s fine motor skills but also supported their language development by using the prepositions ‘over’, ‘under’ and ‘through’. Another member of staff runs wildlife education workshops and has been leading on activities with children involving orienteering and photography.

Lizzie Staite says:

When the children started at little Foxes, six months ago, many were unable to use scissors, hold a pencil and put pressure on it, peel a satsuma or turn on water taps. Now they are able to do these things: they have pressure on their pencil grip, they can cut shapes out with scissors and most of the school-starters can write their name accurately.

Janie Ankers says:

Even the children’s self-care activities such as changing out of their outdoor shoes and scraping their bowls clean after eating was supporting the refining of motor skills.

The encouragement and support of the children’s independence is another benefit and by spending most of their days out of doors, the children are developing a love and understanding of nature and care for the environment.

The Early Years team would like to thank BAND (Bristol Association for Neighbourhood Daycare) for allowing us to use parts of their original article as featured in BAND News December 2018 for this case study.

Little Foxes work as a dedicated Forest Pre-School has also been acknowledged in a Nursery World article (19th August 2018)