When Clare's daughter Scarlett was starting to get mobile, Clare started looking around for groups that were nature based, relaxed and local... after coming to a dead end she started visiting Sydenham Hill Wood on a weekly basis with a friend and her baby and toddler. When that friend went back to work she started up Nature Play: South East London in July 2011. Word soon got around and before she knew it there were other parents joining her for a weekly dose of nature!
"I grew up in the countryside and so felt very strongly about passing on that love of nature, the earth and care of the environment on to my daughter - especially as we were bringing up our baby in a city! There was only one way to do that as far as I was concerned and that was to get in amongst nature regularly.
As Scarlett gets older, the brief changes. At first it was about discovering the environment, now it's about physical and imaginary play... all are essential to brain growth as it turns out.
One of the most surprising bits to the whole Nature Play experience for me, is that we the adults get just as much out of the weekly experience, we come out relaxed and grounded. It's what I wanted for my daughter, but forgot that I needed it for myself too."
Clare now lives in Rutland with husband Nick and their two daughters Scarlett and Olivia.
"Before our son Alisdair arrived we have been doing walks around local woods, gardens and parks. We love being in the outdoors and wanted our young boy to be part of this. We have been taking him out in nature since his first week of life!
After looking for an outdoor based group for young children I heard of Nature Play and immediately fell in love with the philosophy of letting children out in nature to have some wonderful unstructured time."
Maria started up Nature Play Croydon in February 2013.
Nikki Hatchett hosts the Croydon Group with Maria.
Nelson New Zealand Nature Play Babyfocus.
"I have been facilitating Babyfocus Parent and Infant classes inspired by the work of Dr Emmi Pikler, in Nelson for the last 8 years. We had been finding that the room we used became too small for the group of infants once they started to be really mobile around the time they turned 1 year old. We didn't have an outdoor space where they could play either. They would start climbing up against the barrier gate that went into the kitchen and shake it and want to go out. We decided to finish classes when the children were walking securely and becoming restless in our environment.
I had heard about the Nature Play group that Clare Caro had started in London and I was encouraging families to get out into nature together with their infants when their Babyfocus classes were completed.
Early in 2014 while I was visiting family in London I visited Clare and her Nature Play group and loved the concept and experience.
On my return home I talked to Belle Clark who had a toddler who had just finished Babyfocus. We went for a walk in the area I felt would be a great place for Nature Play. Belle was enthused and was happy to be the leader for the group. After getting approval from Clare and advertising to Babyfocus families our Nature Play group was born and has been attended by many regular and casual families since. Strong friendships and support are being forged between like minded parents.
There is such a benefit for the children and adults to go to the same venue each week to repeat experiences and notice seasonal changes in the environment.
I love Nature Play for myself when I attend and appreciate catching up with former and current Babyfocus families."
Belle Clark hosts the Nelson Group.
Hannah Pattison, Isobel Butler and Jennifer Radford
Hannah, Isobel and Jen run Nature Play Peterborough at Holme Fen Woods. Friends Hannah and Isobel started looking around for an outdoor playgroup when their babies were beginning to get mobile but couldn’t find any in the Peterborough area.
After meeting Clare, Hannah was inspired to set up Nature Play Peterborough and together with Jen’s help the group started in August 2015.
“We will never forget our very first Nature Play Peterborough session. Lost in the heart of our woodland, we let them ‘go’. A hush descended as from the safety of our laps they soaked in through every cell of their being- the sights, sounds and smells of the forest. Soon, when they were ready we followed their cues to move off our laps. My daughter Florence stomach crawled slowly and with intense determination towards a leaf hanging down, mesmerised by the sunlit patterns moving through it, a look of wonder and joy on her face. Isobel’s son Johnny realising the floor beneath him was alive and changing, began delving his fingers down into the soil. We’ll always remember how they both looked as they wordlessly passed a stick back and forth. Utterly ‘in the moment’ as babies always are, we were mindful and respectful of what they chose to play with.”
“Needless to say, it quickly became all of our favourite time of the week- connecting with each other and nature. Each time we take the track into the woods, one of us is sure to exclaim ‘Look how much it’s changed since last week. It never ceases to amaze us how each session leaves us refreshed and energised. Taking a step back and mindfully watching our children as they choose to daydream, explore, interact, roam around- wherever their play takes them, we enjoy the lack of agenda and appreciate them for who they are in that moment.”
North West London Group
North West London Group
"I am very lucky to live very near to an amazing green space in London and when Zoe was a small baby I was always there, outside. I found that the moment we were outside in the green, she and I both were much happier. As she grew, I noticed the big change that happened every time, when I felt it stressful inside, in my own walls and my child literally going up the walls, the answer was always and still is: go outside, be in nature, freedom to roam and explore, no walls. There was instantly more content, more calm, cooperation, creativity, connection."
Nina DiGaetano began Nature Play North West London on Hampstead Heath in April 2015 with her daughter Zoe. Besides hosting Nature Play Nina is a nature based childminder and is working towards becoming a Forest School teacher.
Paula Rozmysl, Paula Ko and Clare Welburn
"I had always been an outdoorsy person, I grew up in a small city but the countryside started at the end of my street. I rode and we had a family dog so lots of my free time was spent outdoors and that was something I wanted for my children too. We moved to this little bit of south London called Plumstead exactly because it had so many great, green spaces but in the year I had gone back to work full time between my two children my eldest had not really been in nature in the way I had envisaged. The first time my son was at Nature Play he would wipe the mud off his boots with his gloves. Within a year he had completely changed and he is now always at his happiest in the woods. The weekly rhythm of spending time in this wild setting is now just a normal part of his childhood experience." Clare Welburn
East Singapore Group
East Singapore Group
"I was running out of space and scape at our city-flat home as my daughter, Violet, was very much into movement so the only place left to go was out! Violet was always in awe of the outdoors and nature. It energises us both. I was fortunate enough to meet Clare and expressed my anxieties and excitement about bringing my then 3 months old to the South East London group hosted by Natasha and Ana. I was sold!- We went the very next week, we've never looked back!"
Nature Play East Singapore began in October 2016.
Shwu Huey Tan
West Singapore Group
“I grew up in the outskirts of a small, sleepy town in Melaka, West Malaysia, and spent countless memorable weekends in a small seaside village where my Grandmother and the rest of my extended family lived. My childhood was filled with wonderful long days in the countryside, following my cousins of varying ages around the village - harvesting clams, climbing coconut trees, flying kites we made out of newspapers, learning to weave mats out of screw pine leaves, waiting for our fisherman uncles and cousins to come home with their bounty from the sea. I now live in Singapore which is very urban and modernised, but sadly, with limited access to nature. This has made me yearn all the more to expose my two young children to the joys of my childhood, so that they may share my love and reverence for Nature and enjoy endless hours of free play. I heard about Nature Play from my lovely friend Wen Yong who had attended some of the London Nature Play groups and I am excited to be hosting our own Nature Play group here in Singapore!”
South London Group
"I grew up in the countryside, the typical pony-mad girl and I often feel that nature brought me up as much as my own parents did. Left to my own devices and free to roam, I developed a deep love for and connection with nature. When I became a mother myself, passing that sense of self, of place and of connection with nature down to my children was, and still remains, a top priority. We live in a different world to the one I grew up in, the days of children roaming wild and free are sadly long gone so it is down to us as adults to inspire the next generation by getting out there with them and falling in love with nature all over again."
After several years of attending Nature Play Croydon, Cathy started the South London group in the neighbouring area of Sutton, February 2017.
Natasha Morabito and Jess King host the South East London Group.
Effie Manou hosts the Thessaloniki Group.
Kat Parr Mackintosh hosts the Richmond Group.