Published: 10:21, 15 September 2021
| Updated: 14:49, 15 September 2021
As part of efforts to help youngsters recover from the pandemic the Scouts has announced it will begin welcoming four and five-year-olds, to help early years children learn 'essential skills for life' with an emphasis on having outdoor adventures, making friends and learning new things.
The launch of Squirrels groups is the first new addition to the movement for 35 years when Beaver Scouts for six and seven-year-olds opened in 1986.
New Squirrel dreys will be open to both boys and girls with seven little groups set to begin running across the county.
The Association has confirmed that Squirrel Dreys are going to open at the following scout groups in Kent and Medway: 17th Gillingham (St.Margarets Rainham); 1st Gillingham; 1st Horton Kirby; 1st Littlebourne; 1st Lyminge; 1st Northfleet and 8th Gillingham (Wigmore).
Bear Grylls, Chief Scout said: “I'm so glad that younger children from Kent will now have the chance to join our family of Scouts and develop skills for life. We know from our pilot programme that four and five-year-olds can really benefit from the activities that Squirrels offers.
"All of us at the Scouts believe that by offering opportunities at this early age, inspiring a sense of wonder, fun and curiosity, we can have a long-lasting, positive impact on young people’s lives."
The Scout Association points to Ofsted research, which suggests that in communities hardest hit by the pandemic early years children aged four and five have returned less confident.
It is hoped that Squirrels will eventually be able to reach at least 12,000 families within the first three years of the roll-out.
The tailor-made programme comes with an entirely new set of badges for children to work towards and collect that will include Feel Good, Be Active, Explore Outdoors, Brilliant Builder and Exciting Experiments.
Crafted to help children develop teamwork, communication, creativity and core skills activities such as pitching a blanket tent while making new friends, planting seeds or learning how to spend 50p in a local shop could be among the tasks they take part in.
But in order to make the expanded programme a success, The Scout Association says it will need to recruit thousands of volunteers and is calling for helpers to step forward as part of its #GoodForYou campaign.
Matt Hyde, CEO, explained: “Squirrels is part of our commitment to help young people, families and communities come back stronger from the pandemic. Our mission at Scouts is to equip young people with skills for life, and what we learn up to 5-years-old lays the building blocks for everything that follows.
"If you’re four, you’ve spent a third of your life in lockdowns. We know this has especially impacted children in communities hardest hit by the pandemic."
He added: “To scale up this new programme we need support from volunteers, partners and donors to help us reach even more young people.”
To learn more about the new Squirrels group and for more details on registering your interest click here.