Volunteer at Culbokie Fun Club

This article was sent through by CALA Child Practice Manager Marion Laidlaw:

We often have school pupils wanting to do voluntary work with us and the children always enjoy having some young people around to play with too.

Recently we have had 2 pupils with us. One of them is Ewan Brese and this is what he had to say about his experience:

cromarty-volunteer“I am a 3rd year pupil at Fortrose Academy. I am currently undertaking my Duke of Edinburgh bronze award which requires 3 months of voluntary work for an hour a week. For this I chose to go to Culbokie CALA of which I attended when I was in primary school myself. Personally I enjoyed going because it was active, I got to play football and basketball whilst entertaining others which was very enjoyable, I also got to catch up on what primary school was like now a days and how it has changed. The staff were very supportive and helpful and I definitely recommend for anyone who needs to do voluntary work or complete an award to go to Culbokie CALA.”

The An t-Alltan 2016 Conference for gaelic teachers


An t-alltan is the annual Early Years Conference, held in the MacDonald Aviemore Conference Centre on September 28th and 29th. If you’re planning on attending, make sure you mark the dates in your diaries.

For more information, please visit their website: Gaelic Version / English version

Thinkuknow Awareness Campaign

The following article was sent through by CALA Training Development Manager Norma Ruettimann:

The 4th of July saw the launch of a 3 month awareness raising campaign for parents and carers by Thinkuknow. The first of the resources is a video clip entitled ‘the world changes, children don’t’ which shows a potential 21st century version of the story of Romeo and Juliet.
thinkuknowThe parents section of the Thinkuknow website provides information to support parents and carers to understand and respond to the risks their children may face as they grow. It covers a broad range of online safety issues from nude selfies to what to do if you think your child is being groomed online. Find it at www.thinkuknow.co.uk/parents

Research tells us that having a supportive parent or carer can make all the difference in helping a young person learn to stay safe. It is hoped that this campaign will raise awareness of the breadth of advice and support Thinkuknow offers, and its accessibility to anyone whether they would like more information about keeping their child safe, or is worried about a young person in their care.
– Adapted from Thinkuknow.

End of term fun and games at Cròileagan


Tia and Johanne have sent through a little report about the fun they all had at Cròileagan in Nairn during the last few weeks of term, including Là Spluidseach (messy day).

To read about the messy fun they’ve been having, click here to download the report that Tia and Johanne sent through.


Risk Averse or Risk Diverse?


The following article was submitted by Glenn Denny, CALA Training Officer:

I think we can acknowledge that we live in a culture of “blame” which has led to some practitioners feeling apprehensive about promoting opportunities for risk in play. Is now the time we make a stand against the perceived norm and reclaim children’s right to experience risk?

I was fortunate enough to stumble across what I consider to be a brilliantly written series of articles in the Play for Wales magazine produced by Play Wales, the national body for the promotion of play opportunities for Wales. One of the first articles that grabbed my attention spent a great deal of time busting those self-perpetuating myths surrounding Health and Safety.

Mention Health and Safety to some practitioners and you may be met with one of two responses; either a roll of the eyes or a shudder of fear. Sadly the latter might be more common than the former! Written by Judith Hackett CBE, chair of the Health and Safety Executive, she actively encourages practitioners to promote that adventure and challenge of risky play. She states “Wrapping children up in cotton wool achieves nothing. Children who grow up unable to anticipate and deal with risk can lack self-confidence and may be less prepared to make decisions as adults.” Promoting ‘Confident Individuals’ is at the heart of everything we do for the children in our care so we don’t want to be missing out on such a huge opportunity to encourage this confidence. Is that myth still floating around that HSE wouldn’t approve? Well perhaps we might consider it banished as Judith Hackett says in her eye-opening article “HSE never seeks to ban activities on the basis that they pose a risk to those taking part. We take account of the wider benefits to physical and mental health and to society as a whole. This is exactly how we ought to view children’s play.”

Play which involves risk and adventure is truly individual to the child as they will all have different ways of approaching the challenge not to mention differing physical and cognitive abilities. Facilitating a child’s access to a supportive environment to explore and problem solve is truly inclusive. If you stop and think about it for a moment, a child who has a disability will explore challenge and risk in a different way to a child without a disability, they still get to the same point of the challenge just doing it in different way. Further on in the same issue of Play for Wales an article by Ally John, an equality, diversity and inclusion writer, makes the valid point “As responsible adults we have a responsibility for keeping children safe but this extends to supporting all children and young people to manage risk for themselves, not just physical risk but also the intellectual, social and emotional risk they expose themselves to.” Food for thought!

Ally John goes on to say “All children need and want to take risks as they play, enabling them to test their limits, undertake new experiences and develop their skills. Children would never learn to ride a bicycle, swim, climb a tree or use a skateboard unless they were intrinsically motivated to respond to challenges that involve the risk of failing or being injured.” How can we progress the capabilities and resilience of the children we care for if we wrap them up in cotton wool?

The articles in this magazine certainly were thought provoking. If you’re a practitioner in childcare and learning you may be interested in reading more. http://www.playwales.org.uk/eng/magazine and ‘My World Outdoors’ 2016 http://hub.careinspectorate.com/improvement/my-world-outdoors/

– Glenn Denny, CALA Training Officer

Drakies and North Kessock Holiday Club – Week 1 & 2 Recap


Drakies and North Kessock Holiday Club is in full swing! Children and staff are taking part in lots of fun activities and making new friends while they’re at it.

Here is Tracy from Drakies to describe what they’ve been up to so far:

“Due to building works at North Kessock School, they are unable to use their usual setting, so joined up with us here at Drakies. We are very busy having lots of fun mixing with our new friends. We would also like to welcome all our new children to holiday club and hope to see you all back in October. We will continue to provide updates so make sure to check back.”

– Tracy

Click here to download Tracy’s Powerpoint presentation, showing all the fun the boys and girls of Drakies and North Kessock are having together.

Minister for Childcare and Early Years Mark McDonald Visits CALA


We were delighted to recently have a visit from Mark McDonald MSP to our Inverness Office. Mr McDonald is Scotland’s Minister for Childcare & Early Years.

The Minister met with two of the participants in the #openingdoors project, Adrienne and Marc, as well as Mentoring Support Officer Kirsty Hunter, and CALA Chief Executive Valerie Gale.

Mr McDonald was very interested to hear of the fantastic work being done by #openingdoors, which provides mentorship to young people interested in a career in childcare. #openingdoors participant Marc explained to the Minister that he wished the project had existed when he initially left school, as it would have encouraged him to pursue a career in childcare sooner.

Adrienne discussed with the minister the positive impact CALA’s E-Learning Zone has had on her training. As an #openingdoors participant, Adrienne has free access to our online courses, allowing her to increase her knowledge of subjects relating to childcare and download certificates of achievement to keep for her records.

“It was fantastic to meet the staff at CALA and Adrienne and Marc who are participating in the Opening Doors programme. I’m delighted the Scottish Government can provide funding to CALA to support their vital work in the Highlands and Moray through their early learning and childcare provision and the Opening Doors programme which helps young people into a career in childcare. I’m looking forward to attending their conference in September to hear more about their work.”

– Mark McDonald, Minister for Childcare and Early Years

We were delighted the Minister decided to take the time to visit our offices, and allow us the opportunity to outline the various projects CALA are involved with.

Mark McDonald has very kindly agreed to make the opening remarks at the 2016 CALA Conference, due to be held on the 30th of September. We are thrilled Mr McDonald has agreed to attend, and are very much looking forward to hearing his opening remarks.

Gaelic Toddler Newsletter

The latest edition of the CALA Gaelic Toddler Newsletter is out, featuring articles on den building, Bookbug, and how to have fun regardless of the weather!

Download the newsletter by clicking here.

CALA Conference 2016!

This year’s Conference is fast approaching and we’d like to bring you up to speed with our plans!

The Minister for Childcare and Early Years, Mark McDonald will open the Conference and set the scene for a busy day of networking and workshops.   A two course buffet lunch will be provided with time for delegates to browse our exhibitors and catch up with colleagues and friends.

We are delighted to have Karyn McCluskey, the Director of the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit, delivering the Keynote speech this year.   She will discuss vital aspects of early intervention and consider how we can ensure that children can grow up as part of a healthy community.

Our workshops this year look at aspects of family life and wellbeing in the 21st Century, from the impact of Child Poverty to the role of men in childcare.  Find out more by clicking on the titles below.

We look forward to seeing you there – booking is now open.

A5 Conference 2016

Keep the kids entertained this summer with these five free days out in the Highlands

The summer holidays are upon us, and parents up and down the country are looking for ideas to entertain the kids without breaking the bank. We’ve compiled a list of five free days out you can enjoy this summer around the Highlands.


Who doesn’t love a day out at the beach? Why not head to Nairn Beach for a day of sun, sea and ice-creams (this being Scotland, sun can not be guaranteed). With beautiful views across the Moray Firth, long stretches of golden sand, and amenities close-by, Nairn beach is regarded as one of the best beaches in the North of Scotland. Charlie Chaplin used to come here on holiday, so it must have something going for it!

Things to do:

  • Have a look for signs of life in the rock pools scattered around the beach. You could use it as an opportunity to teach children about the variety of animals that live around our coastlines.
  • Comb the beach for shells. Can you identify what creatures once inhabited them? Why not take some home and try making a necklace? Find out how here.
  • Have an ice cream from the tea room located right next to the beach. Just watch out for the seagulls!


It’s not quite Niagra Falls, but it’s pretty impressive nonetheless, and it’s right here on our doorstep. Rogie Falls is located close to Contin, and features a beautiful forest, the spectacular waterfalls, and well maintained paths.

Things to do:

  • If you’re there late in summer, keep an eye out for wild salmon (they spawn at this time of year).
  • Walk over the impressive looking suspension bridge. There’s a great view from the bridge, perfect for a photo opportunity.
  • Take a closer look at the plants and trees in the area. Why not use the opportunity to teach your children the names of some of the plants and trees we get in Scotland. If you need a refresher, take a look at Scotland’s Native Trees and Shrubs.


Whin Park is about a 20 minute walk from the centre of Inverness, and is open 365 days of the year, with free entry and free car parking. Whin Park is the largest outdoor park in Inverness.

Things to do:

  • all-aboardTreat your children to a ride on Whin Park’s miniature railway. Featuring two locomotives (one steam powered!), the track is over one and half miles long and features views of the River Ness. Passengers under 4 get to ride for free; for over 4’s there is a charge of £2.
  • Inside the park there is a large boating pond, with 27 rowing boats and paddle boats for hire.
  • Other features of the park include a large play area with slides, swings, rope climbs, a children’s assault course, picnic areas, and an ice-cream and coffee shop.

Find out more about Whin Park by visiting their website.


Located between Fortrose and Rosemarkie on the Black Isle is Chanonry Point, widely regarded as one of the best places for dolphin spotting in the North of Scotland.

The best time for dolphin spotting is on a rising tide. This handy website can tell you what time that will be on a particular day, which should make it easier to plan your trip.


If you fancy taking the kids for a nice stroll or a cycle this summer, you could do a lot worse than heading to Culloden Woods. Some of the highlights of the area include:

  • The trees of Culloden Woods cover part of the site of the Battle of Culloden, when in 1746 the Jacobite forces of Charles Edward Stuart were defeated in battle by William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland. If the children in your party have any interest in Scottish history, Culloden is a great place to encourage their learning.
  • gruffaloA mouse took a stroll through the deep dark wood…“. Culloden Woods features ‘The Gruffalo Walk’, which features a variety of statues and carvings relating to Julia Donaldson’s famous book.  A perfect photo opportunity for any little ones who are fans of the Gruffalo.
  • Remember to take a few pennies with you to throw down ‘St. Mary’s Well’. This is a cloutie well; legend has it that if you tie a rag or cloth to a nearby tree, any ailments you may be suffering will be transferred to the tree. Whether you believe this or not, it may be worth stopping for a look at this unique piece of Scottish tradition.

That’s our list! We hope you manage to get some inspiration for something to do with the children in your life this summer.

Have we missed anything? If you know of any free days out in the Highlands, please leave your suggestion in the comments below!

Photograph credits:

Safe Strong and Free competition winners and runners-up

Safe Strong and Free recently held a drawing competition for children in the Highlands, with participants drawing someone who they feel safe with. SSF had an overwhelming response to the competition, and received many many amazing entries. After careful consideration of the entries, Connie from Cawdor was awarded first prize – a family voucher to Landmark Adventure Park.

Well done to everyone who entered the competition, and massive congratulations to Connie for her winning entry. Here are some photos of the runners-up:






Lochinver Preschool Visits Local Art Exhibition

Lochinver Preschool recently took a trip to an art exhibition in Lochinver. Jane from Lochinver explains more:

“Out of The Depths” sculpture exhibition opened in Lochinver on the 4th of July, and will be running for 3 weeks. Nigel Goldie (the artist) invited preschool to come and have a sneak preview of his amazing mobiles and sculptures, all created using materials washed up on the shore!

 “Recycle! Use it again!”