In 2018, I wrote about Mad Hatter’s Nursery’s beautiful buzzing bug hotel in their wonderful outdoor space shared with two magical, white rabbits called Marshmallow and Smudge, as well as lots of children’s toys, swings, and Wendy-Houses. Looking after insects and animals found in the play area has always been encouraged.
Since then, the children and teachers at Mad Hatter’s have continued to care for the garden environment by planting runner beans to grow into a walk-through tunnel, pots of peas placed on picnic tables for the kids to watch as they grow, along with herbs boxes, tomato plants and a hedgehog house made by Mrs. Chiverton’s husband, the owner of the nursery, to encourage more hedgehogs into their green spaces.
Now, in 2022 the Bug hotel has been let to re-wild itself and is primarily used as a bug sanctuary/hospital for hurt or tired insects that the children find in the play areas. A little dish of water is regularly placed in the insect sanctuary to ensure that the bugs are hydrated, particularly now in the summer months.
The bug hotel is a feature of great interest to the children and throughout the year the little ones regularly check their digging patch and bug hotel for new guests. Pieces of bark, wood, and stone are collected and added to the bug hotel, so it’s forever being extended to make room for new guests. Black Beetles, woodlice, spiders, centipedes, wasps, bees, ants, and worms are often in residence.
The Bug Sanctuary is a place of respite and care for a plethora of insects that frequent there, but also a wonderful place of learning and observation for the children. There’s no better way to understand the magic of nature than by watching how biodiversity works in action and there’s no better age to start than as toddlers.
Diana Littlejohns, Teaching Children Conservation Through Art; Roots & Shoots coordinator at Mad Hatter’s Nursery
Read more of Mad Hatter’s activities here