Mum spends two-years turning nursery into a plastic-free preschool

Emily Padgett, manager of New World Nursery in Washington, Tyne and Wear, has scrapped all plastic toys and equipment at her preschool and swapped them for entirely wooden and recycled resources (Picture: Mercury Press & Media)

Mum-of-two Emily Padgett has spent the last two years turning her nursery into a plastic-free preschool.

Emily, from Gateshead, has ditched all plastic toys and equipment at New World Nursery in Washington, Tyne and Wear, swapping them for wooden or recycled resources.

Kitchen staff have also stopped cooking any food packaged in plastic and cleaners use eco-friendly refillable products.

Emily says the more natural environment – complete with glass fairy lights, hessian bunting, wooden toys and wicker baskets – helps the children learn.

Nursery manager Emily said: ‘It was a brutal process and with staff it took a bit of teaching, but we all stayed positive and looked forward to the new learning methods and atmosphere.

‘Since we started introducing the changes, we’ve actually noticed the children’s behaviour has changed – they are more engrossed and have higher levels of curiosity and wonder.

Emily says the transformation cost under £500 in total (Picture: Mercury Press & Media)

‘We have quite a few children who have autism in the nursery and sometimes plastic toys are a bit overwhelming for them because the colours are too stimulating, but giving them natural toys helps their creativity and supports their critical thinking.

‘Now, there’s lots of ‘wows’ from the children – they’re in awe because there’s so much to look at which fills their wonder and curiosity.

‘Their favourite resource is probably the African wooden toys and they also love the suitcase filled with sand where they can create patterns with potpourri pieces.’

Emily had the idea to make the nursery more eco-friendly in 2017, after noticing a trend in teaching children about their environmental impact.

The transformation began in 2017 with toys replaced one by one, with old plastic toys donated to charities.

Staff claim the natural toys have boosted children’s learning (Picture: Mercury Press)

When children were playing shop or kitchen, they were given real food rather than plastic versions, and brightly coloured plastic toys have been replaced with wooden objects in more neutral colours.

The next step took place in the kitchen, with staff ditching packaged food and making everything from scratch.

All four rooms at the independent nursery are now totally plastic-free.

Emily hopes that her work will inspire other nurseries to ditch the plastic and make an effort to reduce waste, commenting that the makeover cost her less than £100 per room.

She said: ‘Doing your bit for the environment is a big deal and it’s a good theme for every nursery to follow – it’s what we should all be doing now to help promote active minds.

‘These children are our future generation of scientists, doctors and business workers in every aspect and it’s important in this day and age to make them aware of the changing climate and realise it might one day affect their children.

‘We have created an environment supporting a culture of curiosity, awe and wonder where our children can explore, discover, discuss, create, achieve, learn and, most importantly, have fun and inspire each other!’

Have you come up with a creative way to make your life more eco-friendly? Get in touch to share your story by emailing

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