Do children really spend all day outdoors?

Yes, we spend most of our time outdoors!

A key part of the fun and learning is embracing the Scottish weather, we support children to take an active role in adapting our base camps and shelters, finding solutions to stay warm and dry in challenging weather.

  • We use different types of heat sources in our shelters for warm and cosy rest times
  • We work with parents to ensure children are suitably dressed for the outdoors
  • We provide puddle suits and affordable, helpful clothing tips to make sure each child is ready to play and learn, whatever the weather
  • All of our nurseries have indoor accommodation that we can use in extreme weather, including side-ways rain and high wind!

How much does it cost?

We want Willow Den to be accessible to everyone and it is free to those choosing to use their funded hours with us – this includes the annual provision of essential kit to keep your child warm, dry and happy to be outdoors.

If you need more we offer any additional top up fees at an hour rate or day rate as appropriate. This varies setting by setting as the cost base is different for each unique Willow Den nursery. Visit the nursery page to see what it costs for the setting of your choice.

What is funded childcare?

Every child in Scotland is eligible to receive 1,140 hours of funded early learning and childcare per year from the age of three until they start school.

You can choose to use your 1140 funded hours with more than one nursery, this is called a split or blended placement. For families requiring more than 1140 hours of childcare, additional hours are available to purchase. This is call ‘wrap-around’ care.

What happens if I want to split 1140 hours between two places?

It is usually possible to split funded hours over two settings e.g. between Willow Den and another partner provider or between Willow Den and a local authority provider, providing there is agreement from both parties about how the funded hours will be allocated. If you intend to split the funded hours for your child, make sure you provide all the details of the other provider in your registration form including how you would like the funding to be split and we will take it from there.

Is there a minimum number of sessions?

We do not operate a mandatory minimum number of session at Willow Den. If there are individual factors impacting this requirement which need to be considered the team will discuss these with you directly.

Are there any additional charges?

Our daily rates include a hot two course lunch, morning and afternoon snack as well as all play resources, wipes and everything else needed day to day.

If your child is still using nappies we ask that you provide these.

Do you offer term time placements?

Willow Den is a year round nursery and is open 50 weeks of the year but we do offer a limited number of term time placements at each setting. Please contact us to discuss what is available at your closest location.

Does Willow Den offer funded Early Learning and Childcare places?

Willow Den is in a Funding Partnership with City of Edinburgh council and Falkirk Council. For more information on the status of funded places at your chosen nursery contact 

When can my child start nursery?

Your child can start nursery when they turn three years old, check with us, or your local authority to see when your child’s funded place is due to start.

When will my funding start?

Funding usually starts in the term following the child’s third birthday, in some local authority areas funding starts in the term of the child’s third birthday. This varies depending on the local authority area. To find out when your child’s funding starts visit your local authority website and search for ‘ELC funded places.

What is the ‘National Standard for early learning and childcare?

The National Standard, introduced in August 2021, sets out what children and families should expect from their early learning experience regardless of where they access their child’s funded hours.

What does ‘Funding Follows the Child’ mean?

Funding Follows the Child is ‘provider neutral’ and is underpinned by a National Standard that to be a funded provider – regardless of whether they are in the public, private or third sector, or childminders – settings will have to meet. Funding follows the child will help increase choice and flexibility for parents and carers whilst ensuring children benefit from high quality provision. It means that parents and carers – including those of eligible two years olds – will be able to choose to use their child’s entitlement at any ELC provider that:

• meets the National Standard
• has a place available and
• is willing to enter into a contract with the local authority

Further information is provided in the Interim Guidance on Funding Follows the Child and National Standard requirements for settings and local authorities.

What about toilets and changing facilities?

Outdoor nursery means outdoor toilets!

We have a range of different toilet types depending on the location. Where play is taking place in rural settings or too far from any indoor toilets we have dedicated toilet tents for privacy and dignity. We also have specific changing tents for times when children need to change their clothes, either from a ‘toilet accident,’ or too much splashing and muddy play.

Which curriculum do you follow?

We follow the Scottish Government’s national practice guidance for Early Years in Scotland Realising the Ambition: Being Me. Children are involved in creating meaningful experiences, they are at the centre of interactions and they are co-creators of the spaces we use. Willow Den is place where children can grow, develop and have their voices heard.
Image – Play pedagogy sketch note, Education Scotland

What will my child learn?

Children are born to learn through play.

At Willow Den we access natural environments where children can explore nature and learn through play.
Children’s play is facilitated by highly skilled, qualified staff who are trained to support your child to lead their own learning through curiosity and inquiry, and by following their own interests.

Have your ever wondered why children ask so many questions? This is how children learn about the world around them.

How are you inspected?

Providing high quality early learning and childcare is a priority.

  • We are regulated, inspected and graded for quality by the Care Inspectorate in line with the Health and Social Care Standards; My Support, My Life.
  • We measure quality using the ‘How Good is Our Early Learning and Childcare’ quality assurance tool.
  • We access additional resources to enhance learning including My World Outdoors, Space to Grow and Food Matters, these documents inform our daily practice.
  • My World Outdoors research has shown that children who are curious and think creatively are more likely to have better attainment. Similarly, children who experience a range of environments and learn as they do, also fare better in attainment.

Do I need to provide food?

All children benefit from a hot, nutritious lunch and snacks as part of the daily routine.
We promote healthy eating and practice inclusive eating to support every child, regardless of their dietary requirements.

My child is still wearing nappies, can they still attend?

We have nappy changing facilities on site and aim to work with parents and children to support children through toilet training. Spare changes of clothes help children feel comfortable throughout the day.

Can I arrange a visit with my child?

We are keen that all children and families feel welcome and at home at Willow Den. Each nursery offers typical visit times throughout the week to ensure we keep disruption to nursery routines to a minimum. Please contact for the latest updates on visits and settling in routines at your chosen nursery.