Nature is my passion. I grew up in a village in West Sussex and was perhaps the ‘Last Child in the Woods’ – or at least one of the last. Hearing the inspirational author Richard Louv speak at a conference resonated not only with my own childhood, but also with why I wanted to bring nature and the countryside to London right from the beginning of my teaching in 1989. 

My family lived near a cornfield and a wood, and I can clearly remember long summer days building fairy gardens and collecting wild flowers to press in my Grancher’s old tie press. We played by ourselves – meaning that on top of the gift of nature, we were given the chance to be bored: I truly believe that children need to be bored to fuel their imaginations and inherent creativity.
I’ve always had a great love of the sea and my early Woodentoters would remember all the shells and pebbles, seaweed and driftwood I would bring back each weekend from my visits to ‘CrabPot’, my beach hut in Devon – a place I hold close to my heart. Before having my children, the weekly drive down there was my escape. I’d make learning materials from the treasures I brought back, involving the children to make things from them, and I created a sea garden within the Woodentots garden complete with a lobster pot I found washed up on the beach.

“I truly believe that children need to be bored to fuel their imaginations and inherent creativity”

My love of the sea also led me to name my daughters Beatrix Pebbles and Eloise Samphire. For years they believed everyone had a ‘real’ name and a sea name! I have such happy memories of them searching in rock pools, collecting pebbles for painting, and driftwood to build playscapes. They could entertain themselves for literally hours playing with pebbles, shells and driftwood. My girls still have the most incredible imaginations.

About the Author: Paula Woodman

Paula is a Montessori teacher and Forest School Leader who has run the much loved Woodentots Montessori nurseries in North London for over 30 years. Recently recognised as Montessorian of the Year, Paula’s schools offer a unique and rich mix of Montessori, Steiner and Forest School, with child-led creativity at their core.