In the Woods

The Secret Gardener’s Story 2022 

This story is a collation of all the incredible play the children at the Secret Garden have been engaging in over the past year. Weaving in moments of nature connection, numeracy, literacy and our Spiral curriculum, all of the ideas are the children’s own, all of the quotations are theirs too.  

A great many thanks to the children for the endless inspiration, and to the staff team for their wonderful observations.  

Merry Christmas to all and a Happy New Year. 

Mazz Brown December 2022.  

Once upon a time, some children went to play in the woods.  

On the way they noticed some icy puddles, which some of them wanted to break, but others said the ghosts could catch them if they did that.  

They visited the lambs. They patted one that had only been born that morning, helped to feed another one, and helped to bed the sheep with new straw. And they sat in the tractor! 

When they arrived, the children were busy. Some of them made a fire, collecting wood, sorting the sticks and even making a fire safety circle.  

One was riding on her unicorn and a couple more were talking about a birthday party. “We’re going to play pass the parcel’, ‘and I am going to be 4.’ 

‘You’ll need 15 layers for that and I am 4 and ¾.’ 

From the woods, they could see smoke coming out of the new yurt chimney for the first time.  

They made shapes behind the tarp as the sun was shining on it. They acted out animals, while the others guessed what they were.  

Two children made a stick bus with log seats. The rest enjoyed rides in their bus-it had a round steering wheel made out of branches. 

At lunchtime, there were six strawberry cakes. And for the bad guys, hazelnut soup (it’s poisonous!) Some crumbs were fed to the birds, and the children discovered rhyming words. Tickle and pickle, bear and pear – please and cheese – cat, mat, hat. 

Someone said: ‘If you eat your crusts you’ll get hair on your hands!’ 

Then kittens and dogs were jumping into the swimming pool. 

‘We’re swimming in a sea of leaves!’ one child said. 

A pack of puppies were being walked on their leads. A sloth hung from a tree and a beautiful mural appeared on the woodshed. 

Two ladybirds sunbathed on a twig, and when the sun went in, the ladybirds crawled under the bark.  

There were snowdrops to count, and snow, and snowmen. A den that needed moss putting inside, with a door and a booby trap. And a trip to the zoo to feed pandas, penguins and elephants. 

Someone spent a long time watching a queen bumble bee crawling slowly up a tree…someone else watched a pheasant in the field. 

Once upon another time, the children noticed tulips on the walk up. What colour would they be when they opened?  

Bamboo was needed (for koalas) and plants from different parts of the woods. Curled fern fronds were found, they looked like mini broccoli! Someone drew a big spiral in the leaves, then made wings to turn it into a bee. 

Two children planted seeds they found, discussing how they would need water, sunshine and special wishes to make them grow. 

 ‘I wish, I wish, I wish my plant will grow,’ they said. 

Two others led a yoga class. Workers rebuilt the den, and one made soup for them to have afterwards. It needed more water-it was a bit too thick! 

Then came the new soft beech leaves…two children collected nectar to make green honey.  

The speedboat needed to be fixed to get to Edinburgh zoo. Some other children went to a funfair through a magic gate on a motorcycle, and others on a minibeast adventure…a couple more had toast and butter on the train to Dundee. 

Two children sorted grass. Which was the longest, shortest, medium size? Someone else used sticks to check and compare the height of her baby reindeers. Another found a V-shaped stick. 

‘It could be a triangle or bunny ears,’ they thought. 

‘Or antlers,’ said another.  

‘Or legs for Stickman,’ someone else suggested.  

Others threaded found items onto a woollen ‘loom’ between the trees. 

‘This tree is so tall, taller than me, taller than all of us, taller than the Eiffel tower in Paris,’ somebody said. 

The children saw 11 bees fly out of a hole in the ground, and made a protective area around it to warn others. 

There was a big adventure to Monimail, where there was a stream with green water snakes, and they made garlic soup.  

Someone said: 

‘It was the best day ever.’ 

Once upon another time, there was a Tree Blood Farm, with bark to pick off a fallen tree.  

Some children made a cosy safe nest for a robin, and there were baby wolves, pirates with leaves for treasure, and a pen built for some guinea fowl. 

‘They have wings but can’t fly,’ someone explained. 

Pizza was made and there were races, with children running around the outside of the quarry, and saying ‘well done!’ to each other.  

One child found a tickly ladybird, who opened its wings and flew onto his hand. Another child found a moth, and gently took it on a leaf, telling his friends,  

‘Shh…’ as he showed them. 

Some children decided it was time to rebuild the den again, while others were chatting about the crocodiles in the swamp. Another, while strimming, discovered lots of ripe brambles. 

There was a 5th birthday party with lots of cakes. But then one million Gruffalos tried to crash the party & were scared off with sticks!  

Once upon another time, the children heard a loud noise just as they arrived. Perhaps a deer? Where was it? Where was it coming from? 

There was a new ice cream shop, singing, and musical instruments being played. Some children collected water in the tarp to make potions, some others learnt to count in Dutch. 

One child was galloping along on their uncontrollable horse with cannon booster power. Spaceships were built, and there was ballroom dancing… 

A hairdressing salon, with haircuts, colouring, washing, conditioner and a mega dryer opened.  There was also a Bake Off competition, with some of the children making cakes, and one of them the judge. 

One afternoon, there was a lovely visit from the moth man. He came to show the children different moths he had caught. One of the children also found a moth, she was very gentle moving it. When it flew away another child said, 

‘It’s going back to nature.’ 

The children were invited to collect cooking apples from an apple tree, and they enjoyed freshly picked pears given to them by a kind neighbour in the village. 

One child opened a sweet shop. She had lots of customers! 

The children saw that the leaves were changing colour on the cherry tree, from red to yellow and brown. They saw the geese flying overhead.  

‘It’s like a bow and arrow.’ 

‘It’s like a smiley face.’ 

‘It’s like a Pterodactyl,’ they said.  

The children cooked fish biscuits and blueberry-flavoured sausages, and someone found the smallest baby ladybird ever. Some children went on a trip on the aeroplane but it needed some repairs before it could take off. 

Almost everyone made conker people. Pumpkin soup was made on the fire, and a couple of children visited a funfair and went on a rollercoaster which got out of control…they had to be rescued!  

Others went on a boat ride, and another group worked in a chocolate factory, making treats for all.  There were also autumn raspberries…and lemon balm… 

Once upon another time, the children saw the trees looked bare ‘without their leaves.’  

They watched the wind blow leaves off trees, they listened to the sound of wind, comparing it to the sea. One said, 

‘The wind is tickling me.’ 

Some children weaved willow shapes from broken willow they had found on the ground, wrapping string round to hold them. Others were farmers, ploughing the land.  

Some made Christmas decorations using yarn over a cut out cardboard Christmas tree, and Christmas cards which they delivered, singing. 

‘It’s an adventuring kind of day,’ one child said. 

The snow returned. Snowballs were thrown and some children made a ramp to sledge off a straw bale. They sledged in the field. They even sledged their way home. 

Somebody said: 

‘Giddy up Rudolph!’ 

(Not) The End…  

In the Woods

A story for Spring- The don`t be silly kingdom

A photo of a woods practitioner laughing with two children

Stories, widely loved and shared by all ages, are a treasured ritual in the Secret Garden, ingrained into our daily routine when the adult in the ‘Snack Bag’ role will tell a tale after lunch. Although impromptu storytelling can and does occur at other points in the day, this is a carefully chosen moment, when the children are able to relax and concentrate before they embark on the essential task of the afternoon’s play.

The stories we tell and how we tell them can be hugely impactful for the early years. Stories not only provide abundant literacy and numeracy opportunities through the use of rhyme, rhythm, counting and measurement, they also encourage a sense of community and kinship, and introduce and develop pertinent themes such as friendship, kindness, resilience and social inclusion. (This list is not exhaustive!)

Many factors influence our story choices; observing particular points of interest in the children’s play, our use of the Hand in Hand tools and the Spiral Curriculum, and our Seasonal Learning Cycle, which mark the transitions the children will be making as the year progresses. This gives us a lovely wide scope for selecting stories that will resonate and inspire, as well as a framework for approaching the act of storytelling in a spirit of empathy, nurture and fun.

Thinking about how to support children with pre-school nerves/self-esteem struggles over the past few months, I’ve written a story in celebration of silliness and good humour…

The Don’t Be Silly Kingdom-a story for the Secret Garden children.

Once upon a time there was a land where everybody was very serious. Nobody was allowed to laugh. And this was because the Lord of the land did not like laughing. Or even smiling. Because sometimes you smile before you laugh, don’t you?

So all through the streets, and in the parks, and on all the lampposts, were big signs that said:


There were swings and a slide and a roundabout in the park, but when the children played on them it wasn’t very fun. They couldn’t swing too high on the swings, in case it was too much fun. The roundabout had to go very slowly, or it might be too much fun. If the slide got wet in the rain it was CLOSED, because it would be far too easy to whoosh down and say ‘Wheeeeeeeeeeeee!’ And then what might happen? They might LAUGH.

There were no funfairs or circuses or birthday parties. The shopkeepers weren’t even allowed to sell bananas, because one day someone had dropped a banana skin and the postwoman had slipped and fallen on her bottom, and this had made her laugh so much that bananas were forever BANNED.

One day a new family arrived in the land. There was a little boy, a little girl, and a mummy and daddy, and they wanted to open a joke shop. They had lots of things with them that were a bit funny…pretend glasses and pretend noses, and pretend biscuits made of rubber that you could put next to someone’s cup of tea and TRICK them, so when they bit into it they said ‘Blerrrk!’ instead of ‘Yum!’

They had itching powder and soap that made your face dirty instead of clean. And they had whoopee cushions…

When they told the people of the land that they wanted to open a joke shop, the people said, very seriously: ‘Oh no no no no no. The Lord of the land will not allow it! He doesn’t like jokes.’

‘But why?’ the family asked. And the people of the land pointed to the signs and said:

‘Jokes make people laugh! The Lord of the land doesn’t like laughing!’

The new family were very confused. The little girl asked:

‘Why doesn’t he like laughing?’

The little boy asked:

‘What is his name?’

And these were questions that no one could answer. When the people heard them they tucked their lips in and shook their heads and some of them even ran away, hiding their faces in their sleeves!

‘Right, that’s it. We’re going to see the Lord,’ the family decided.

They walked all the way up the hill to the big castle where the Lord lived. They knocked on the big door: ka-boom-ka-boom-ka-boom.

The door swung open and two very tall, very serious guards stood over them.

‘Yes, what do you want?’ they boomed.

‘We want to see the Lord!’ the family said.

The guards looked at each other and said:

‘Follow me.’

So into the castle they went. It was very dark. There were no pictures on the wall or flowers on the tables. They followed the guards up to the highest room and waited while they knocked on the door.

‘Come in!’ said a very serious-sounding voice. The door opened.

Inside, on a beautiful chair, on a big squashy cushion, sat the Lord of the land.

He was wearing the most wonderful clothes. He wore a top hat and a bright velvet jacket. He wore polka-dotted pantaloons and on his feet were enormous shoes like a clown. But the Lord didn’t know this, because no circus had ever been to the land, he had never even seen a clown!

The Lord’s clothes were so cheerful and bright, the family were finding it very hard not to smile. They squeezed their cheeks together and said:

‘We have just arrived in the land and we would like to open a joke shop, please, if you wouldn’t mind?’

The Lord snorted.

‘NO,’ he snapped. ‘I absolutely WOULD mind. Hasn’t anyone told you I don’t like jokes?’ He looked very cross. He folded his arms in front of his chest and he glared at them.

‘Yes,’ the little girl said, ‘but no one will tell us WHY.’

‘Yes,’ the little boy said, ‘and no one will tell us your NAME.’

The Lord looked even more cross! He stood up out of his chair and stuck his hands on his polka-dotted hips.

‘NO one,’ he boomed, ‘has told you my NAME?’

The family shook their heads.

The Lord puffed out his chest and took a deep breath.

‘My name…is…’

‘LORD BAZOOKA BANANA ROOTY TOOT TOOT!’ he shouted, sticking one finger in the air and looking at them all one by one. ‘The FIRST!’ he added, proudly.

Well. What do you think happened next?

Have you ever tried to stop yourself laughing when you’re not supposed to laugh? It is really, really, hard. A great big wave of laughter rose and rose within them, until the whole family went:


Lord Bazooka Banana Rooty Toot Toot stamped his big clown shoes and clenched his fists.

‘Stop it stop it stop it!’ he shouted. But the family couldn’t stop. It was just too funny.


The Lord called his guards.

‘General Toothbrush! General Toothpaste! Take them AWAY!’

General Toothbrush and General Toothpaste tried to grab the mummy and daddy by the arms, but the little girl jumped up behind them and sprinkled itching powder all down their backs!

‘Aaiieieeeeeee!’ they shrieked and straight away they let the mummy and daddy go and started scratching, leaping up and down like a couple of frogs.

Lord Bazooka Banana Rooty Toot Toot was very distracted by all of this. He was so distracted, he didn’t notice the little boy had ducked down to hide, so that he could secretly blow up a whoopee cushion.

The little boy snuck up behind the Lord’s chair. He hid it under the big squashy cushion and ran back to his family.

‘Stop laughing stop laughing stop laughing!’ the Lord was shouting. He clapped his hands over his ears.

The little girl looked at him very closely. She saw that he actually looked a little bit sad.

‘Stop laughing AT ME!’ the Lord wailed.

Now, the family loved to laugh and joke, but they were also very kind. The little girl walked up to the Lord and held out her hand to shake his hand.

‘Lord Bazooka Banana Rooty Toot Toot,’ she said seriously, ‘it is so lovely to meet you.’

The little boy walked over too, and held out his hand to shake the Lord’s hand.

‘Your name is a bit funny,’ the little boy said. ‘But it is a BRILLIANT name. It might be the best, most brilliant name I have ever heard!’

The mummy and daddy also held out their hands to shake.

‘We didn’t mean to upset you. We just love to laugh! Maybe you could try it sometime? It can make you feel happy,’ they said.

And the Lord looked at the little girl, and the little boy, and the mummy and daddy, and their open hands. And very slowly, he shook each one.

And then, very slowly, he smiled. He had a lovely smile!

And then he sat back down. On his chair. And what happened?

PPPPPRRRRRRRRRPPPPPPPPPPP said the whoopee cushion!

Nobody moved. Nobody breathed. Even General Toothbrush and General Toothpaste stopped scratching and leaping. Everyone looked at the Lord and waited…

And waited….

Lord Bazooka Banana Rooty Toot Toot the First threw back his head and ROARED with laughter.


And the family knew that this time, it was okay to join in.


They laughed until their sides ached. They laughed until tears ran down their cheeks.

So after this, things were very different. All the ‘No Laughing’ and ‘No Smiling’ signs were taken down. People were allowed to have birthday parties. The funfair came! And then the circus! Bananas were back in the shops and the family were able to open their joke shop. They called it ‘The Do Be Silly Kingdom.’

General Toothbrush and General Toothpaste shook off all the itching powder, decided it had actually been quite funny after all, and went back to buy some more…

And the land was a much happier, smiley place to live. Now you can hear the laughter for miles.

Oh! I almost forgot to tell you the family’s names. The little girl was called Bingle Bongle. The little boy was called Pingle Pongle. And the mummy and daddy were called Mr. and Mrs. Onglebongle.

The End.

Copyright Mazz Brown

May 2022