Words: Emily Carlill
It’s Thursday morning and children and their carers, togged up in wellies and waterproofs, arrive for an hour of messy play and exploration at Kirkstall Valley Farm.
The farm is a 16 acre stretch of crop fields, polytunnels, tractor sheds and a bell tent nestled between Kirkstall Road and the River Aire.
Kirkstall Valley Development Trust (KVDT), best known as the Unit 11 Community Hub at Kirkstall Retail Park, and Kirkstall Valley Farm have launched ‘Kirkstall Valley Explorer Tots’, a new play group for young children.
Taking place every Thursday, 10:30am to 11:30am, children can enjoy messy play, crafts, stories, nature activities, planting and other simple farming activities. They are welcome to get involved in as much or as little as possible; if they want to simply explore the environment, awakening their senses to new textures, sounds, sights and smells, they are encouraged to do so.
Stella and Martin attend the group with their 18-month-old granddaughter Nora. They said:
“Being able to play and explore with other children is something Nora has really missed out on during the pandemic.
“As a vital part of social development and learning through play, she (and us!) love the opportunity Explorer Tots gives her.
“The activities are so well thought out; taking advantage of the outdoor setting and providing the sort of messy play that isn’t as easy to do at home – mud pie making, mini beast observing and water play – give lots of opportunity to talk about and explore our natural world.
“We leave the farm after our Thursday session with a grubby, very tired girl – the sign of a morning well spent! It’s lovely to see her engaging with other children and them all having lots of fun.”
Kirsty Ward, children and families manager at Kirkstall Valley Development Trust, leads the group. She said
“At KVDT we recognise the need in the community for young children and their carers to come together and socialize, especially after the past year where some of the younger children have not seen, let alone interacted with, any other children!
“Our farm site offers a wonderful space for children to play, get messy, meet others whilst being outdoors and benefitting from the fresh air and natural environment.’
Adele Rae, general manager at Kirkstall Valley Development Trust, added:
“Supporting and offering opportunities for the Kirkstall community is what KVDT is all about and we’re so please that this tots groups is providing a safe and friendly space for families to meet, join in with fun activities, supporting children with their learning and social skills, and enjoying and introducing them to the fantastic environment of our community farm, raising awareness of where food comes from.”
Find out more about Kirkstall Valley Explorer Tots and book to join here.