Our Story

In the beginning

Mini Explorers was the brainchild of owner and founder Steph Pybus, who first began to dream of creating her own outdoor nursery back in 2012. As a mother of six, Steph – a successful textile designer and long-suffering (!) farmer’s wife – wanted a nursery for her own children that would offer the same happy, carefree, healthy, outdoor lifestyle they led at home.

Unable to find a nearby nursery that offered the unfettered access to the great outdoors that Steph craved for her own brood, she sold her textiles business and set about creating a unique outdoor-focussed nursery at the heart of the Pybus family farm near Bedale in North Yorkshire.

Great oaks from little acorns grow

Mini Explorers opened in 2012 with just five children and seven carers. As word spread of the unique childcare concept it was offering and its fantastic farm setting, Mini Explorers grew rapidly. So too did its ever-expanding menagerie of animals and its team of amazing childcare practitioners and specialist teachers.

Now, in 2017, Mini Explorers is proud to call itself the country’s first and only (we think!) Farm School Nursery. We link all our learning to the national EYFS framework, but we never forget that at the heart of our nursery’s ethos is the belief that young children benefit in ways that are almost immeasurable from carefree fun and adventure in the great outdoors.

Novel concept, national framework

All our learning is linked to the national Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework, but a huge amount of what our children take away from each day on the farm isn’t found in any classroom curriculum.

That said, we know that we must prepare our Mini Explorers for life beyond nursery. Our team of carers and child-development specialists are always finding new and creative ways to align the unique opportunities and experiences available to our Mini Explorers with the key areas of learning identified by the current EYFS guidelines. Examples of how our ethos might combine with these areas of learning are shown below.

Communication and language

Going on a sound walk around the farm offers a fantastic opportunity for our Mini Explorers to interpret and imitate the noises they hear. From birdsong and animal calls, to tractors brumming, cockerels crowing, buckets clattering, wind whistling and leaves whispering, it’s impossible not to be mesmerised by the music of the farm.

Physical development

From tummy time for our babies as they strain upwards to watch the clouds scud across the sky, to our toddlers and pre-schoolers clambering over fences and tree trunks, Mini Explorers offers endless opportunities for our children to develop their fine and gross motor skills and improve coordination, dexterity, confidence and mobility. On some days, our Mini Explorers can be found racing through fields and throwing and catching leaves, whilst on others, they’ll be carrying buckets of feed and hay, whittling sticks, building towers and planting seeds.

Personal, social and emotional development

Teamwork is an important aspect of all that we do at Mini Explorers, whether we are grooming a pony and taking turns to brush, or gathering apples to take indoors to bake with. All our Mini Explorers learn to remain calm and quiet around our animals, which is a great skill for any child to master, and also helps them develop self-control, compassion, behavioural awareness and restraint. The benefits of children interacting with animals from an early age are well documented.

Literacy

Opportunities abound for working literacy into our day, from mark-making with sticks in the mud, to drawing up plans for model-making in the sandpit, or going on a letter hunt around the farm. And when we are all in need of some quiet time, we love to sit together and share our favourite story books and songs, or make up some of our own.

 

Mathematics

We love to work maths into our activities, from filling buckets of apples in the orchard and learning about capacity, to weighing out animal feed and guessing the depth of a puddle. And who knew that lining up peapods in The Paddock to compare length and estimate how many peas were inside was actually a living, breathing maths lesson?

Understanding the world

Watching the life-cycle of our vegetables, crops and animals gives meaning to the concepts of time and development, whilst discovering a tiny natural wonder like a spider’s web, an eggshell, a ladybird or a brightly coloured leaf leads our Mini Explorers to investigate, ask questions and engage in the world around them.

Expressive arts and design

Squishing blackberries and painting with the juices; acting out our traditional Nativity play in the hay barn; singing and dancing in the rain; creating musical instruments from old material on the farm…we are never short of artistic inspiration at Mini Explorers!

Creative thinking

From working out how to keep the sheep in the paddock to deciding which animals to feed next, creative and lateral thinking are essential Farm School skills. Resilience and positivity is also ingrained in our children; if your first seeds don’t germinate or your bread doesn’t rise, have another go!

The UK's first Farm School Nursery
"Never work with children or animals they told us. You know what, we love working with both!"