The Princess of Wales became the masked lady when she joined children learning through play at a nursery she described as “vital” for parents.
Kate has been championing the importance of the early years development of children for many years and when she visited Foxcubs Nursery in Luton to highlight the issue found herself laughing when upstaged by one little boy.
She first sat down at a tiny table where three and four-year-olds were making face masks and she helped a young boy complete his project and when he held it up to his face said “I think it’s very good – good job.”
Helping a Foxcubs staff member called an educator who sat at the table, she stuck a thin handle to a little girl’s mask and asked “can you look through it?” then waved as the youngster held it up to her face.
At one point Kate looked through a mask and laughed as she did so.
The children could dress up from a rail filled with outfits from superheroes to princesses and one little boy was a construction worker and ran around the room determined to get in the photographs and footage of the media covering the visit.
When Kate joined a group of children playing in a sandpit the three-year-old boy called Ezaan, wearing a hard hat and carrying a plastic hand drill and a large toy pneumatic drill, stood between the princess and the press with his arms outstretched and made her laugh.
Rated outstanding by Ofsted, Foxcubs Nursery run by the Early Years Alliance which offers 70 places for local children aged between two and five years old.
The princess later sat down to chat with Neil Leitch, chief executive officer of the Early Years Alliance, and Foxcubs staff and praised the children: “They’re great kiddies I had a nice little chat with them.”
She quizzed the staff about their experiences and speaking about the importance of nurseries told them: “I think we really saw that highlighted during the pandemic, I think families realised and communities realised, (when) these spaces were closed down for the majority of the time, I think everyone realised how vital they were.”
Later, a small group of parents discussed with Kate the effects of the lockdown, and one mother told her that despite the childcare issues it afforded her “precious” time with her child and the royal sympathised, saying the woman had been able to share “milestone” moments.
During the pandemic, Kate revealed lockdown parenting had left her “exhausted” and joked about her children recoiling in “horror” when she became their hairdresser.
She told the parents from Foxcubs nursery that she had earlier discussed with staff the nursery’s role in providing support for children before they returned home, where parents would continue the work.
Kate said about the educators: “…they’re sort of nurturing for a long time at a school environment – but having that relationship with parents, being able to help you at home and pass on the baton to you, so when the child gets home actually the child feels like there is a holistic service.”
The princess’s passion about highlighting the importance of the formative years of a child’s life led her to establish the Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood.
The institution stems from research which shows the first five years of childhood fundamentally shape adulthood, with social challenges such as addiction, violence, family breakdown, homelessness and mental health having their roots in the earliest years of life.
When Kate left the nursery she stopped to chat to parents waiting to collect their children and posed for selfies with them.
Mr Leitch, whose Early Years Alliance is the largest early years membership organisation in England, said after the visit: “I think she was impressed about the work we do generally and the fact it’s about supporting community as well as children.
“She certainly was very understanding that these are critical years in which a child’s future is formed.”