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Sustainable Gumboots!


Tuesday 20 February 2018

Trying to be sustainable is like being on an adventure of discovery…. you never know what treasures or ideas you’re going to come up with or uncover, while also discovering your own inner creative spirit. 

When we started on this adventure back in 2016 we wanted to develop our new preschool around the ethos of recycling, reusing and reinventing. We never thought it would lead to us winning an award from Early childhood Ireland. When we were developing our philosophy one of our main goals at the centre of our service was to be as green as possible.

Childcare service dining table - Sustainable Gumboots!

We put in a lot of hours searching, fixing, cleaning, painting and reinventing old to new. At times we felt stressed and a little bit deflated in the process of getting the service up and running. Sometimes we didn’t see the end line in sight. However, after a lot of WOMAN HOURS we did it. After several long nights spent setting up our setting with our new-found treasures we stood back gasped and cried, as you do!!!!

We were so overcome with emotion at how beautiful our setting was. We then realised that anything is possible if you have the vision and conviction of your dreams. It broadened our minds to see things in a different light. Every time we came across a skip or a charity shop we couldn’t pass by without looking at the old and disused items and wonder what could we turn them into to support children’s learning and discovery. The best thing of all was we were helping protect our planet while spending little or no money in making our setting come to life.

Now that we are up and running one of our main goals is to promote a green culture with the children and their families that use our service. The children from the first day learn to recycle and reuse. We are continuously working with the families collecting items for our arts and crafts projects. They are constantly donating old toys and out grown wellies etc. We had a flood in the setting back in November and a lot of our recycled treasures got destroyed. It was a difficult time for us but the only solace we had was that the treasures didn’t cost much and it gave us the opportunity to go on a hunt again for new treasures. We also sent out requests for items needed to the families and our friends and we got most of the things we were looking for. Before long we were back up and running with little or no cost.

As we all know at times it can be financially difficult to run our services but being sustainable has been of great benefit to us. As we only started with nine children we really didn’t have much funds available to us but we managed to deck out our four rooms and the outside areas through innovation. The biggest acknowledgement of our hard work and dedication comes, not from the ECI award, which of course we were delighted to win! Actually, seeing the children learning and having fun with all the so-called ‘waste’ was the best feeling of accomplishment for us. We get inspiration from other services and are always looking for the next project. We really enjoy making something new from old. It is great fun and the sense of achievement we feel is great. We even get the children to help out when we have found a new project, giving them a sense of belonging and a part to play in the running of their school.

All our hard work came full circle on the night of the Early Childhood Ireland awards in the Talbot Hotel last year. We never imagined in a million years we would win such a prestigious award. We went all out for the night, as you do… hair, make up, night in a hotel! After all, we deserved it after all the chipped nails we experienced during set -up! The moment came when the winner of the sustainability award was announced. When we heard our school being called out we nearly passed out with the shock. It was such a great feeling of achievement. We had butterflies in our stomachs and the biggest smile on our faces for the entire night. It was a fantastic night and we were in awe of all the amazing services that surrounded us. We met many people along the way to receiving the award who gave us great advise and support. It was a time we will never forget… it was so inspiring and a great way to recognise the hard work childcare services put into providing quality childcare to the families they work with.

We hope we can inspire you to look differently and imaginatively at other people’s waste. Maybe you could turn it into a new learning activity or fixture or fitting for your setting. Imagine If every service up cycled or reused one piece of waste what a restoring and regenerating world we would all be part of. So, go find a skip and see what treasure you uncover!

Click here to see the video of Gumboots and you’ll see the treasures they acquired as they set up their innovative, sustainable setting.



Ricka Walser originally from South Africa now living in Ireland for ten years and Josephine Thompson a native from Balbriggan Co Dublin opened the doors of Little Gumboots Preschool in Balbriggan back in September 2016.  The ladies began working together in 2005 during this time they had a lot of wishful thinking about opening a childcare service of their own.  An opportunity came along and they decided that after working for other childcare services for over twenty years, it was their time to take the big step into the world of being the boss.  This is where their journey began and they are not sure were it will end but they plan to have lots of fun along the way. 

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