Surrounded by giddy children, the Princess of Wales had a ball as she joined in with a colourful arts and crafts session during a visit to a nursery last week. Looking radiant in a bright wool Gabriela Hearst dress with a brown leather belt and boots, which she teamed with a limited-edition camel cashmere coat by Massimo Dutti, Kate went back to her childhood to make masks, dig in the sand and learn Chinese letters when she dropped into Foxcubs Nursery in Luton.
Smiling while watching the playful antics of the young pupils, the caring mother of three looked to be greatly enjoying herself as she sat in the large, bright playroom with around 40 children. Upon arrival, the Princess was greeted by Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, and nursery manager Safina Ali. “Very nice to meet you, thank you for having me. What a beautiful day,” she said cheerfully. She was then led inside the playroom, where the pupils were tackling the tricky job of making colourful masks and a version of Play-Doh. Sitting down at a table with youngsters getting stuck into their creations, she said: “Let me see what you have done. What’s your name? Lovely to meet you.”
Kate offered to help one child, called Adam, put the finishing touches to his design by fixing a lollipop stick to the back of a mask. “That’s very good. Shall I get the Sellotape for you?” she asked. As he held it up to her, the Princess told him: “I can see you through it,” before saying to a staff member: “Adam has done so well. Look at his writing. He has even written his name so beautifully on the back. That really is excellent.” Kate couldn’t contain her amusement when she noticed three-year-old Ezaan, who was dressed up as a construction worker and was eagerly posing for waiting photographers. She laughed as she watched his antics before joining a table of children practising writing letters for the Chinese New Year. Crouching down to their level, she asked for everyone’s names and ages while admiring their hard work.
But despite the playful nature of her visit, which took place on Wednesday last week, there was a serious aspect: Kate was there to highlight the importance of nurseries and their staff in the lives and development of the under-fives in the UK, an area she has been focusing on for more than ten years. The Princess spoke about early years’ issues with staff and parents who had benefited from all the nursery has to offer. Foxcubs is run by the Early Years Alliance, which has 70 places for local children aged between two and five. The organisation offers provision to youngsters in particularly deprived areas of the country.
When educator Rachel Swain Marsh told the Princess that early years was “such a passion for me”, Kate, who set up the Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood in 2021 to raise awareness and promote collaboration in the field, replied: “I think we really saw that highlighted during the Covid-19 pandemic. When they were closed down, people realised how vital [nurseries] were, not just for the communities they serve, but also for the individual families and children in their care.”
She added: “It’s been good, in a way, that it has been highlighted how vital this role everyone is playing is in early childhood. “It is so important having that holistic support for a child, where there isn’t a boundary between educational life, which starts ‘here’, and home life, which starts ‘here’.” Kate spoke to a small group of parents whose children attend Foxcubs, telling them that their offspring were “chatty, really friendly, really engaged in everything they are doing” and adding: “They are such great children. I’ve had a nice little chat with a few of them and they are so sweet. I wanted to stay and play with them.” As the Princess left, she was given a bouquet of tissue-paper flowers made by the children before she greeted a few parents waiting to collect their youngsters.