A community project bringing families together to learn and play outside, connecting with nature.

Loading map...
Back to case studies

NECA is a community garden in South Shields, near Newcastle-upon Tyne. A Froebel Trust grant was awarded to the garden to set up a series of family play sessions called 'Mini Muddy Fingers', designed for local parents/ carers and their young children (from birth to age 5).

"With a combination of indoor and outdoor spaces, our project aimed to harness children’s eagerness and natural curiosity."
Louise Peaker, Project leader

The team of local volunteers at the community garden and allotments took part in Froebel Short Courses and introduced a Froebelian approach to their inclusive work with local families; promoting learning through play in a natural environment

Mini muddy 3

The garden and allotments are an oasis in the middle of a housing estate.
Mini muddy 2

Freedom for young children to explore the gardens.
Mini muddy 3 2

An opportunity to care for plants and animals all year round.
Mini muddy 4

The children grow, harvest and taste produce from the garden.
Mini muddy 5

Children observe the natural shapes around them and take part in creative activities during the play sessions.
Mini muddy 1

The play sessions bring friends and neighbours together to play and create both indoors and outdoors.


90 local children took part in the free play sessions funded by the Froebel Trust.

The NECA garden is located within the 10% most deprived areas in England (Multiple Deprivation Index 2019) - an area where over 37% of children are living in poverty.

“Me and my 2 year old absolutely love it. The staff are so so friendly and welcoming, there is so much to do and it's something very different for the kids. Can't recommend this place enough!”
Parent/ carer at Mini Muddy Fingers

“A very friendly and beautifully run outdoor play space for families. There has been so much hard work gone into this place and it shows. We were welcomed by a fantastic team and included in all of the activities. This is a fantastic community resource, which encourages children to explore the outdoor learning environment and learn new skills”
Parent/ carer at Mini Muddy Fingers

The Mini Muddy Fingers project was wholly funded by the Froebel Trust. The NECA community garden and volunteers were separately awarded Lottery funding.

Note: Images kindly shared here with permission from NECA.

The child who has cared for another living thing... is more easily led to care for his own life.

Froebel (1826)