Outdoor Mud Cafe

Childminder, Angelina Shares her Wonderful Outdoor Mud Cafe

My name is Angelina McLaughlin and I am the proud owner of Ange’s Angels Childminding Service based in Quigley’s Point in rural Donegal. I opened my service in 2010 and just recently passed the 10 year mark in business.

In 2009 I completed my BA Honours degree in Early Childhood Studies and the following year went on to open my own childcare facility, after seeing a need for it in the area. Thankfully I have always been kept very busy and been supported from the start by the community.

I am fully insured and a Childminding Ireland member, Tulsa inspected and offer the National Childcare Scheme. I offer a home-from-home environment with ample learning opportunities where no child is just a number, they are part of our family.

I offer a range of activities every day from messy play, free play, arts and crafts and learning time and lots of outdoor play. My playroom offers many attractive features for children and I change it around constantly. All furniture is child sized and all toys are easily accessible. We have a kitchen area where children can engage in imaginative play. This area helps encourage children to develop their social development with other children. All toys in this area are wooden. We have a book area with a child sized couch, which has proven to be popular so children can take the time to chill out and read a story. It also has a wooden block area, Lego blocks, a farm and doll area. All areas are child led and engage in children’s interests. The table displays table top toys for the children to get creative with.

Since COVID-19, the advice was to get the children outside more so I wanted to create a new outdoor area. Our existing outdoor area has always been a hit and the children just love being outside. We have a fenced in area for trikes, bikes and climbing frames and a ramp for the vehicles to drive over but I also wanted something more natural with a woodland effect. So I created our new natural area with some help from the reopening grant, which could be used for more outdoor toys. I designed a tree house with swings and a mud kitchen underneath set in a thick pile of natural kids play bark which has been great in the mud kitchen. The kids have called this the ‘Outdoor Mud Cafe’ with a picnic table, some child sized brushes for cleaning, lots of pots, pans and spoons for mixing! The playhouse at the top provides the perfect place for outdoor circle time were we would do our singing songs and story time. I also added a play boat, see-saw, climbing dome, balance beam, fairy area and an insect hotel. We just recently added a pulley for children to pass things up to the tree house and this has been a big hit. It’s been great watching children develop their gross and fine motor skills whilst also developing their skills of learning how to take turns and share. The children love exploring it every day. It is great to be outdoors and enjoying the fresh air.

The children also have an outdoor sand box area where there are diggers, spades and buckets. It’s so important for children to experience the great outdoors as it gives them more freedom to run, jump and climb. It also opens the opportunity for children to use their creative imagination. If we limit children’s adventurous play and we don’t provide enough outdoor play it could impact children’s self confidence, social skills and their creativity. Remember a stick to a child can be many of things – we need to see the world through their imagination!

I can’t believe how well all the children have coped during the pandemic and they were all so excited to get back into some normality by seeing their friends again at Ange’s. All the children have returned to the service. Children are truly amazing and they continue to teach me every day how resilient they can be. We should all take a leaf out of their book!

Here are some lovely photos from Ange’s Angel Childminding Service…

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