Saplings welcomes all children from 2 – 4 years. We are a 15 place, Ofsted registered sessional day care provider meeting all aspects of the EYFS and the first Nature Kindergarten in  Co. Durham.

Our well qualified staff  have years of experience in caring for young children and facilitating  the Forest School ethos in a variety of outdoor settings. Our goal is to help your little one develop as an individual in a nurturing environment and give them a wonderful early years experience full of fun and adventure that will stay with them for life.

In short, while our children (and adults!) play freely they are learning all the important stuff like keeping ourselves safe and healthy, communicating effectively, getting along with people, being kind, respectful and polite, understanding that we are all special and can do amazing things when we try.

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What is Nature Kindergarten?

Put simply a nature kindergarten is an outdoor nursery. We spend 80% of our time outdoors throughout the year. We are convinced that it is in natural spaces that children learn best. This is reflected in the resources we use, the way the environment itself is set out and the way the staff interact with the children as mentors and fellow learners. At Saplings we believe that this the most effective and appropriate approach for children to become motivated thinkers, healthy members of our community, happy and resilient individuals who understand they are capable and competent learners.

We dress for whatever the weather throws at us and spend our days immersed in nature –  walking, experimenting, collecting & making, creating, climbing trees, building dens, discovering wildlife, gardening and sometimes have a campfire to cook our food. If the weather gets a bit too wild we might retreat to our cosy indoor space at the Dene Lodge.
Nature Kindergarten uses the forest school ethos (see our forest school page for more info) where children and adults plan together, play and learn together and reflect together.

At Saplings Nature Kindergarten children enjoy:

  • An inspirational early years experience that feeds and encourages their natural curiosity & fascination in the natural world.

  • Small groups with a high ratio of adults to children, more like a child would experience in a nurturing family group.

  • Spending most of their time outdoors, feeling a sense of freedom and awe not possible indoors.

  • Qualified and experienced key person for each child who will facilitate opportunities to learn with the children and help the children reflect on their own learning.

  • Indoor space with somewhere comfortable and warm to relax.

  • Open ended and natural resources that have multiple uses across the curriculum. We avoid overdesigned, plastic toys and too much visual clutter.  Robust, natural spaces allow for items to be used in creative ways.

  • Challenge and the chance to take risks with lots and lots of physical activity. Our high adult to child ratio allows our children to take supported risks and feel the satisfaction of achievement.

  • Being at the centre of their learning,  having their thoughts and feelings heard and being an intrinsic part of the planning process.

  • A healthy range of snacks and drinks throughout the day.

We offer care for children from 2-4 years on a minimum 6 hours per week basis. Our sessions start at 8.45am and finish at 3.45pm, we do offer settling in sessions of half days for a few weeks if needed but recommend full days longer term as children really settle into their play and environment this way.

All children are entitled to 15 hours free childcare per week in term time from the term following their 3rd birthday. Children of working parents can access 30 hours per week. Parents can choose to share the 30 funded hours between providers, for instance a school nursery or childminder.

If you are eligible for funding we can help you fill in the forms required by Durham County Council in order to access your place. Visit for more info on funded childcare.


Chargeable hours outside of free sessions – £5.30/hour

Breakfast Club  from 8am / After hours club  until 5pm- £5.30 each including breakfast/ snack

If you are a parent/carer and would like more information or a visit to our setting please use the contact page