Our Early Years and Foundation Studies (EYFS) programme is a young programme, just like its target audience of 0 to 5 year olds. Our Conservation Tots events have multiple benefits to children, their caregivers and the planet!
Conservation Tots is our weekly coffee morning with a difference. Our programme of events is designed to introduce babies and toddlers to nature based activities; creating a love and connection for the environment from an early age.
The benefits of engaging with this young audience not only makes a difference to the babies and toddlers but also their parents and caregivers. By providing the opportunity for young children and their parents to learn about nature together, we create a space for a shared love of the natural world that we hope will grow as these youngsters also grow up with their families and friends.
It’s so important for children to get the opportunity to connect with nature as early as possible. Connection to nature contributes to children’s wellbeing and makes them more likely to grow up with a sense of environmental responsibility. Children are also more likely to develop a positive relationship with nature when they experience this with their caregivers. We believe the earlier that children learn about wildlife, the more likely they are to care for our planet and different species as they continue to grow.
We’re constantly looking at new ways to adapt our conservation messages to be age appropriate because we want conservation education to be as accessible as possible, whatever the age of our visitors. With this in mind, the sessions are designed both to be accessible to the children through play and creative interventions but also by providing a programme which enables their caregivers to participate in nature based activities to enjoy with us here at the zoo and at home. Each session has a conservation theme to do with species, seasons, habitats and much more. Giving the opportunity for free play area throughout the session, there’s also always a variety of activities including storytelling, singing, crafts and games. It’s as inclusive as possible so that the needs of the adults and children are catered for.
Our themes such as habitats, native species and water wildlife allow the children to explore at their own pace with their caregiver and our Zoo Rangers. We set up sensory play using water, textures and other materials which use touch to discover the natural world in a suitable way for babies and toddlers. We find that using songs and stories really helps to engage with this younger age group and helps to start their conservation journey with us by creating memories.
“We love the zoo and I love bringing my little girl to Conservation Tots. It’s been a great way to introduce her to a variety of animals using lots of books, and toys; as well as having some sensory experiences in a safe environment. It’s also lovely for her to see other babies and toddlers so they can socialise and play together. A bonus is grabbing a drink with some of my mum friends in the coffee shop before heading into the zoo for a leisurely walk with our prams!”
These sessions are as much about the adult attendees as the children. Loneliness can be a problem for new parents and these sessions provide a convenient, safe space to come and socialise. These relaxed sessions mean that the adults can chat, get to know each other, if they don’t already, and bond over a shared experience of caring for children. Our hope is that the activities and themes used in the sessions inspire adults to try some of the activities at home or even better to come up with their own nature inspired activities, therefore extending this connection to nature into their every day lives. By encouraging activities such as making crafts, recognising animals and reading stories about animals at home, the bond between child and caregiver is stronger but also their shared connection with the living world.
Previously we offered single events during holidays or weekends for our younger visitors, however it became obvious that this was a multigenerational audience that would relish a more regular and permanent programme. Taking this feedback on board, Conservation Tots is now part of our regular term time offer. Conservation Tots is the first level of our Junior Programme which will take children on a learning journey throughout their childhood and into young adulthood. Our engagement with our Early Years’ audience not only provides opportunities to learn but also to develop social skills and build friendships that could last a lifetime.
Conservation Tots is held at Bembe Coffee Shop, every Wednesday morning during term time.
Look out for our Conservation Tots sessions and other events for young people on our Events page