Nursery children handed yurt to aid outdoor learning

Cowgate Under 5s Centre children enjoy their own private space
Cowgate Under 5s Centre children enjoy their own private space
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THEY originate from central Asia and are traditionally lived in by nomadic tribes.

So it would be a surprise to find a bunch of pre-school children inside one, kicking back after a hard day’s play.

But nursery children as young as two years old have been given their very own yurt, in which they can relax, sing songs and draw pictures.

The Cowgate Under 5s Centre is thought to be the first in the city to offer children the unusual structure as part of its outdoor play activities.

They have been using the yurt after the city council, which owns it, agreed to take it out of storage, where it is kept between annual outings in the Grassmarket each summer.

The cream yurt, which is made of wood and canvas, has space for between 12 and 16 children at any one time and is part of the children’s “nature kindergarten” at Bonaly Outdoor Centre.

Lynn McNair, head of the Cowgate Under 5s Centre, said: “The yurt has given us an important private space for the children to use. We always feel that children need a little private space where they like to be alone, a place of retreat in a way.

“Adults only go in if they are invited or if they are going to be cooking in the yurt. Apart from that, it’s an uninterrupted space for the children.”

She added: “We have little mats so they can sit on the ground and a little burner to cook on. It’s a really lovely little space to be in. They can do things like cook, read, sing and rest.”

The children spend three days a week – around six hours each time – at the yurt and nature kindergarten, where they enjoy climbing trees, fishing and paddling in the stream.

“They’re all filthy when they come back, they’ve had such a great time,” Miss McNair said.

She said that the yurt had proved such a hit that the nursery was looking to buy its own.

“We will try and raise money to buy our own yurt in future. I think they cost about £10,000,” she said.

“The children call their experience at Bonaly ‘Stickland’ because, when they started in the winter, there were no leaves on the trees and they came back saying they would like to go back to Stickland.”

Gillian Tee, the city council’s director of children and families, said: “Outdoor learning is an important part of the Curriculum for Excellence and provides a number of benefits for young children. The yurt is an innovative way to engage children in active learning.

“It assists with personal development, social skills such as team working, and creates a greater appreciation of nature amongst young learners.

“The yurt is the first of its kind in Edinburgh. We hope to build on this success by introducing similar initiatives so that more young children can benefit from outdoor learning.”