Children’s TV presenter Jess French celebrates benefits of spending happy time outside with real plants and animals

Searching for bugs in the grass at the Village Green Children's Centre at Belton during a Norfolk Wi

Searching for bugs in the grass at the Village Green Children's Centre at Belton during a Norfolk Wildlife Trust project, from left, Teddy Edmead, two; Phoebe Brett, two; and Lexie Holsworth, four. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

Youngsters were encouraged to connect with nature and get their hands dirty at the launch of a project aimed at countering the dominance of screens and calming busy minds.

Phoebe Brett, two, studies an ant she has caught in a pot at the Village Green Children's Centre at

Phoebe Brett, two, studies an ant she has caught in a pot at the Village Green Children's Centre at Belton during a Norfolk Wildlife Trust project. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

Children’s TV presenter Jess French, Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s first Children’s Ambassador, launched its Children and Nature project, working with the under-fives at Sure Start centres in Great Yarmouth, Thetford and Corpusty.

She was at the Village Green Children’s Centre in Belton leading a bug-hunting activity aimed at encouraging children to enjoy nature and spend more happy time outside.

She said: “Amid this fast-paced world of technology and ultra-connectivity, I am so pleased that we are able to offer young children a way to calm their busy minds, engage with plants and animals and make real and important connections with nature.”

Senior education officer at NWT, Annabel Hill, said she was “really excited” to be working with children and families at the very start of their lives.

Children study an ant that has been caught in a pot at the Village Green Children's Centre at Belton

Children study an ant that has been caught in a pot at the Village Green Children's Centre at Belton during a Norfolk Wildlife Trust project. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

She said: “We will be running monthly interactive sessions, sensory play and nature-themed walks.

“Coming up is a session on bees, which will involve buzzing around performing a waggle dance, and making wax candles.

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“We’ll also be providing treasure baskets for our baby explorers, which will contain natural objects such as acorns and conkers for them to handle.

“Part of the project is working with new parents to improve their health and well-being by having contact with nature, such as on wildlife walks and visits to nature reserves.”

Lilly Beasley, three, meets a praying mantis at the Village Green Children's Centre at Belton at a N

Lilly Beasley, three, meets a praying mantis at the Village Green Children's Centre at Belton at a Norfolk Wildlife Trust project. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

The Children and Nature fund was established by NWT vice president John Snape and his family to help children enjoy and value the nature that surrounds them in Norfolk.

The project was boosted by a £7,770 lottery grant and support from the Norwich branch of White Stuff.

NWT chief executive Brendan Joyce said: “This funding is fantastic news for local children and local wildlife.

“Research shows that children today have far fewer opportunities than previous generations to explore and discover wildlife and spend much less time outside. We are delighted that it gives us the ability to work with Sure Start Centres which do an excellent job engaging the very young and their families.”

Children at the Village Green Children's Centre at Belton come face to face with a praying mantis at

Children at the Village Green Children's Centre at Belton come face to face with a praying mantis at a Norfolk Wildlife Trust project. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

Children at the Village Green Children's Centre at Belton come face to face with a praying mantis at

Children at the Village Green Children's Centre at Belton come face to face with a praying mantis at a Norfolk Wildlife Trust project. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

Children at the Village Green Children's Centre at Belton come face to face with a praying mantis at

Children at the Village Green Children's Centre at Belton come face to face with a praying mantis at a Norfolk Wildlife Trust project. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

Children's TV presenter, Jess French, shows a stick insect to Lilly Beasley, three, at the Village G

Children's TV presenter, Jess French, shows a stick insect to Lilly Beasley, three, at the Village Green Children's Centre, Belton, at a Norfolk Wildlife Trust project. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

Children at the Village Green Children's Centre at Belton come face to face with a stick insect at a

Children at the Village Green Children's Centre at Belton come face to face with a stick insect at a Norfolk Wildlife Trust project. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

Children at the Village Green Children's Centre at Belton come face to face with a stick insect at a

Children at the Village Green Children's Centre at Belton come face to face with a stick insect at a Norfolk Wildlife Trust project. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

Children's TV presenter, Jess French, with a stick insect to show the children at the Village Green

Children's TV presenter, Jess French, with a stick insect to show the children at the Village Green Children's Centre at Belton at a Norfolk Wildlife Trust project. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

A stick insect at the Village Green Children's Centre at Belton for a Norfolk Wildlife Trust project

A stick insect at the Village Green Children's Centre at Belton for a Norfolk Wildlife Trust project. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

Sophie Barkshire, two, is fascinated by a cockroach at the Village Green Children's Centre at Belton

Sophie Barkshire, two, is fascinated by a cockroach at the Village Green Children's Centre at Belton at a Norfolk Wildlife Trust project. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

Sophie Barkshire, two, is fascinated by a cockroach at the Village Green Children's Centre at Belton

Sophie Barkshire, two, is fascinated by a cockroach at the Village Green Children's Centre at Belton at a Norfolk Wildlife Trust project. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018