A childcare business in Prudhoe specialising in an outdoor-led approach to learning has opened its doors to families following major renovation work.

My Little Kingdom is the brainchild of friends Emma Nelson (38) and Sarah-Jane Sewell (32), who saw a gap in the local market for high quality, affordable childcare provision in the town. The day nursery and forest school, which aims to promote children’s health and wellbeing by connecting them with nature, has been launched following significant renovation work at their new premises, the Kingdom Hall in Prudhoe.

Two members of staff have already been employed, including a qualified teacher and a forest-school trained level five practitioner, two more will be starting in January. The business aims to create a total of 26 new jobs within three years.

The nursery business, which has spaces available for up to 80 children and has started welcoming its first pupils, was launched with a community open day. More than 100 people attended including parents, children and representatives from local schools and businesses.

Emma Nelson said: “Our community open day was a huge success. We were joined by several local franchises who offer cooking, wildlife, dancing, yoga and forest activities for children. We will be partnering with these providers to deliver further enrichment to the children in our care on a rolling basis, one per term.

“As part of the renovations we have also created additional mezzanine space which can be rented by the hour, enabling organisations to deliver classes and activities for families.

“Our approach at My Little Kingdom is centred around the outdoors and creating opportunities to learn, promote health and wellbeing through nature. All of our resources are natural and all of the toys we provide are made of wood rather than plastic.

“We’ve had a great response from local parents who received a taste of what will be on offer at our nursery at our community event. The outdoor fire and marshmallow cooking were a huge hit which was lovely to see.”

The facilities at My Little Kingdom include a baby room, called Cherry Blossom, a pre-school room, called Little Conkers and the Sweet Chestnuts room which will cater to two to three-year olds. The founders are also investigating the potential to offer an after-school club in partnership with Adelaide First School in the afternoons, offering activities and care for school-aged children up to the age of 11.

A grant of £64,000 via the North East Rural Growth Network (NERGN), a programme accelerating business growth and job creation in rural communities in Northumberland, County Durham and Gateshead has facilitated the creation of additional space at the nursery enabling the owners to maximise their intake.

Rural Growth Network Manager Katy McIntosh, at Advance Northumberland said: “It has been wonderful to come back and visit the site now that the renovations are complete. The changes that Emma and Sarah Jane have made to the building are of a very high standard. The thoughtful planning of the outdoor space will enable the business to accommodate children in a natural learning environment.

“The Rural Growth Network was designed to help SMEs in our region to realise their potential, creating jobs for local people. My Little Kingdom will provide a much-needed local service and we have been proud to work with the business from its inception to seeing it welcoming children into its care.”

The nursery is open 51 weeks of the year from 7.30am to 6pm and offers a limited number of fully funded places for two to three-year olds under the Government’s free childcare entitlement.