Give me the wild children… aching to run through a field of stars…

At this time of year, we often have many discussions about the challenges that children encounter throughout a day at Venture. However, our discussions more recently are more focused on how we are totally astonished by the tenacity of our children and how much they have all overcome in just a few weeks.

We are very mindful that as parents you may question your decision to send your child into the woods knowing the challenges they will likely come across. How will they manage a whole day outside? Will they be able to find another jumper if they are cold? Will they be able to climb as high as the older children? We thought that by sharing this email from one of our current parents will hopefully give you reassurance that you have made the best decision for your child.

‘When I dropped Maggie off this morning at the woodland gate and watched her try repeatedly to climb up the muddy steep bank I was reminded of a few lessons we so easily forget. I was humbled by my 3 year old. As I watched her try and repeatedly slide down the muddy bank I am ashamed to say I thought she wouldn't make it up there. Even suggesting she go round the easy way.  The whole way home I felt ashamed of that. She kept going and she kept sliding and she still kept going and eventually she made it.  Yet there I was, the adult, telling her to take the easy way round. She wasn't going to let that bank defeat her. My determined little toddler showed me that just because it’s tough doesn't mean she can't achieve it. I was reminded that although our children are little they are more capable than perhaps we sometimes give them credit for. Given enough time and space I know they have the determination to achieve so much. So that’s also why I felt happy. Happy that she is spending her days with people like you. You let our children discover the world for themselves and overcome problems with sheer determination. I love that they're encouraged to tackle the day in their own way at their own pace. You stood back and watched her attempt the bank knowing she would do it in the end.  Thank you for letting our children blossom and for nurturing their spirits. Maggie adores Venture, she loves her days there and the people she spends them with. I can see why. When I pick her up, muddy faced and boots full of sand I’m happy in the knowledge my strong willed little girl is getting to blossom and grow in such a wonderful environment with such amazing role models.’

During our parent meetings it has been really heart-warming for us to hear that the parents of children who have been with us for a while share the same view as us. That facing challenges and overcoming barriers instils determination and confidence and the time they have spent at Venture so far has given them the belief that they can achieve anything they wish.

‘Give me the wild children with their bare feet and sparkling eyes. The restless, churning climbers. The wild ones using their outside voices, singing all the way home. Give me the wonder-filled, glorious mess makers dreaming of mountains and mud, aching to run through a field of stars.' Nicolette Sowder

Read the rest of the Venture Hope Cove newsletter here.

The wonders of going for walks

We often go for walks at Venture, but there is so much more to these than ‘just going for a walk’. 

Today’s walk was a fine example of what the children have been learning throughout the term so far. As always at Venture, we like a challenge. The very nature of our kindergarten is a challenge. The high unique expectations we have for each child are a challenge. Even separating from our parents can be a challenge. But like I said, we like challenges. 

Today’s walk was challenging for many reasons. It’s the furthest we have walked from Kitley Farm. It’s somewhere we have never been before and to make it that little bit more challenging even the terrain was being difficult. 

We set off after a morning snack in search of new woods to explore. Not only are many of the children independently finding their backpacks and name tags on the rope bus, but they are becoming more aware of their peers and offering help to those who need it (this shows a wonderful self awareness as the children can see how their actions affect others). All the children can now tell you all the rules of the rope bus with very little prompting from adults (this shows great listening and retention skills).  They don’t just know these rules but they also all follow them (even our little twos!). We had a new friend, who will be starting with us after half term, and the other children took turns to show him the ropes (excuse the pun) and made him feel very welcome in the group.

We started out our walk on the familiar road up to the orchard but it wasn’t long before we soon reached unfamiliar ground. The children took it all in their stride however, which expresses a brilliant level of confidence in themselves and trust in the staff. As we walked along the path we saw strawberry fields and pheasants, among many other things, which gave the children a chance to talk to each other and broaden their vocabulary and listening skills. 

We soon encountered an enticing muddy puddle. It lured the children in until the water was above their wellies and many boots were stuck! The children weren’t phased however, as over the last half term they have been building up a resilience to challenging situations and of course getting muddy. 

We eventually found a picnic spot and stopped for lunch. The children now know the routines and could probably sing the washing hand song in their sleep, (retaining songs and routines is key for the foundations of reading). Chris then read them this week's story ‘Hairy Mclairy and the Caterwaul Caper’. Everyone loved filling in the repeated refrains and linking the characters with the other ‘Hairy Mclairy’ stories.

Once lunch was finished and we had scientific discussions about the unripe strawberries being out of season, we packed up and headed back towards Kitley farm. On the way we stopped to count the pumpkins, (constant access to numbers vocabulary helps children to embed them so they become second nature). 

All term we have been engaging in running races for the children to build up their gross motor skills. Today Jess extended the learning by adding in a stop and go element. Everyone had to listen carefully to the instructions, listening games are the first steps in learning phonics! After a short trip on the rope bus we were back at Kitley. 

Once back we worked out the walk was about 3/4 mile and I must say all the children loved it! They all carried their own kit the whole way and embraced every challenge. Each and every child has come so far in their perseverance and resilience this half term.  This isn’t just something we have seen today. It’s what we observe every day at Venture. These achievable challenges support your child’s confidence, self belief and resilience to grow. These skills are a huge challenge to learn but will be rewarding for each individual for the rest of their lives. 

You can read the rest of this Venture Kitley Farm newsletter here.

Learning to find magic in challenging times

Life at the moment is challenging for all of us in one way or another. We feel extremely grateful to escape to this little peaceful corner of the world and to spend the day experiencing life through the eyes of a child, as magical and extraordinary. There have been many special moments this half term but one in particular reminded me of how our children always seem to find the magic in challenging times. As we arrived in Hope Cove to lashing rain and gale force winds, we began the day with a little trepidation, wondering how the children would cope. We needn’t have worried. As we sat by the fire warming our toes and munching our snacks the children eagerly asked where we were headed for the day and after a little discussion about wind direction and tide times we decided that the woods would be our location for the morning. The children threw their bags onto their backs and headed out to find their names on the rope bus, which looked like a waterfall itself as the rain dripped from their name tags. We set off, embracing the wild weather. As the rain poured down, a stream of muddy water flowed down from the woods, providing the opportunity to discuss the steepness of the road and the speed of the flowing water. They listened to the rushing water in the drain and noticed that the water was higher than usual. Due to the beating rain the woodland gate was more slippery than usual but that didn’t stop them clambering over or sliding through the mud underneath. They felt the squidgy mud under their wellies and talked about how it was tricky to walk as it felt like their boots were being sucked into the mud. They jumped in puddles of muddy water and watched the splash of mud on their waterproofs, discovering that the harder they jump, the higher the mud will travel, even as high as their faces! They rolled balls of mud and put them onto the end of sticks as they pretended they were camping with a fire to toast their marshmallows. They practiced forming letters and drew pictures along the fence using mud, a little more interesting than just a pencil. They found bits of broken branches to stand on as ski’s to slide down the muddy hill, quite the balancing challenge! Throughout the day we heard screams of joy and laughter and shouts of “This is absolutely crazy good” and “It’s my greatest day ever!”

We understand that as parents you may question the positives of leaving your child in the woods with howling winds and a temperature of two degrees. We understand that playing outdoors in Winter gives our children the opportunity to learn that they can manage life when it gets challenging. We tell them that they can achieve anything and continuously build their self-esteem. They discover that they have the ability to persist and make the most of what life throws at them. We know that grit and resilience are two essential capacities that our children need for long term wellness. Most importantly we look forward to the reward of hot chocolate at the end of the day whilst reflecting on how much we have learnt and how proud we are of their achievements. 

Read the rest of the Venture Hope Cove newsletter for Spring 1 2021 here.