Stand tall for Empathy Day

To mark Empathy Day on 9 June, London Early Years Foundation (LEYF) is launching its Standing Tall for Early Years campaign ­– with a call for all Early Years settings across the UK to join together in planting sunflower seeds with children.

Empathy Day was founded in 2017 and it aims to drive a new movement inspired by research that encourages people to show more empathy.

Now that nurseries across England have re-opened, LEYF wants to celebrate the sector’s bravery and commitment. The early years organisation wants to bring the sector together by planting sunflowers with children.

As the sunflowers grow and bloom, LEYF is asking nursery staff all across the UK to post photos of their sunflowers and to measure how tall they grow.

A prize will be awarded for the tallest towering sunflower by LEYF’s green-fingered garden expert and co-author of 50 Fantastic Ideas for Nursery Gardens, Clodagh Halse.

June O’Sullivan, CEO of London Early Years Foundation said:

‘Both the sector and the children have been through so much uncertainly, upheaval and change over the past few months, we at LEYF believe NOW is the time to understand each other’s emotions, be kind to each other and look to the future with hope and positivity. What better way to do this than planting radiant sunflowers and standing tall together.

‘Early Years has been badly underfunded for a decade, and in the last financial year the childcare sector faced a £600m funding shortfall – not to mention a lack of status and recognition from the Government. Let’s all unite and shine much-needed light on the great work we all do.’

Clodagh Halse, co-author of 50 Fantastic Ideas for Nursery Gardens added: ‘

Taking ownership of individual plants will increase the children’s involvement and awareness of the growing process. Caring for the plants and comparing measurements will help them learn through change – something which we’ve all had to embrace over the past few months.’

Sunflower hints and tips from LEYF

  • Sunflowers can be sown straight in to the ground where they are going to flower, so make sure you use a trowel to remove any weeds from around the area before planting
  • Find a suitable spot where they will get 6-8 hours sun per day – this is what they need to grow successfully.
  • Rake the soil to a fine tilth (a fine crumbly texture) and make some drills 12mm deep. Leave a 10cm space between each seed if you are sowing more than one.
  • Place the seed(s) in carefully and cover up with soil. Don’t forget to water the seeds gently.
  • Be careful, as slugs and snails like to eat new shoots. You may want to protect the seedlings by cutting the top off a plastic bottle and placing it over your seedlings.
  • As your sunflower begins to grow taller than you, you will need to help support the stem by placing a cane near the stem and loosely tying it to the plant with string.
  • Watch your sunflower grow and grow and grow…






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