We are big fans of Forest Schools, since we first discovered them during our time in San Francisco. I’m so happy to see that Forest School is getting much more popular over here in the UK now too!
Forest School originates from Scandinavia, but the concept is spreading throughout the US, the UK and many other countries worldwide.
If you want to know a bit more about Forest School or are unsure if it’s for your child, then read on!
Here’s a bit more about Forest School and 12 reasons to LOVE Forest School. (You’ll love it as much as your kids!)
So what is Forest School exactly?
The short answer is Forest School is an outdoor form of schooling that takes place in a woodland setting. However the Forest School approach and ethos is what defines Forest School.
Forest School isn’t just ‘outside play’ it’s a whole approach to learning. The idea of Forest School originates from Scandinavian forest schools. The Forest School Association in the UK describes Forest School as:
“An inspirational process, that offers ALL learners regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland or natural environment with trees.”
Forest Schools are usually child centred, although may include some teacher led activities too. They are led by a Forest School qualified teacher and take place regularly, once, or several times a week – rather than as a one-off session.
Forest Schools are becoming increasingly popular in the early childhood setting, where children may take part in all or some of their nursery sessions outside. Forest School is for ALL ages and abilities though. Many schools are starting to include regular Forest School sessions as part of their curriculum – about time! There is SO much to love about Forest School!
Here are 12 reasons to LOVE Forest School:
Spending time surrounded by nature is an obvious benefit of Forest Schools. It’s amazing how children develop a greater appreciation of the natural world. They learn more about the wildlife around them and to respect all living things.
In the Forest School setting imaginative play just explodes! A stick can become a magic wand, a log turns into a train, a tree stump can be a stage. Without the distraction of toys or the ‘busyness’ that a traditional classroom can have, children’s imaginations really go wild.
Children have many opportunities to play together and to co operate as a team. They might build a shelter together, in order to be more efficient. Or simply take turns on who drives their imaginary train. There are ample chances to grow and develop kindness, taking turns and respect for others.
Forest School encourages children to weigh up risks and make decisions about which risks to take. Although safety is always a top priority in Forest School, there are lots of opportunities to take small risks – such as climbing on a log for example. Some forest schools may include cooking on a campfire, or doing woodwork – depending on the age and set up. Risk taking is supervised, but also encouraged.
Forest School encourages children to ‘think outside the box’. They have to be creative in how they solve problems and approach learning in their own way. For example, they may have to create games, or build toys, using what is around them in the forest, encouraging them to think creatively.
We’re always trying to get children active and moving aren’t we?! It’s great for their bodies and tires them out too! Forest School gives children plenty of opportunities to run, walk, play and climb – all outside in nature’s playground.
Promotes Calm and Well Being
Being surrounded by trees helps to promote calm and a sense of well being. Children who have been out running, playing and exploring in nature are calmer when they come back into those four walls.
There’s so many ways children can be crafty and creative in the forest. Forest School is not only for children who want to run and climb. There are lots of ways children are encouraged to be arty and crafty, using materials around them, as well as some things the teacher may bring. Children may make wooden necklaces, or paint pictures with rain water, make nests out of twigs. I still treasure the projects my children have made at Forest School!
Appreciate Changing Weather and Seasons
Being in nature helps children to be more in touch with the changing weather and seasons. Forest School helps them appreciate that every season or type of weather is important. For example, children recognise that we need rain for plants to grow, or that every animal and plant adapts to different weather in different ways. Children who are well wrapped up in layers and waterproofs can enjoy Forest School at any time of year.
Mud is perfect for messy play! Children can play with pots and pans in ‘mud kitchens’, or with gardening tools or shovels – perfect for both sensory and imaginative play. Playing in the mud is encouraged at Forest School! Dress your children in waterproofs and boots and they’ll have a whale of a time in the mud and puddles.
Boosts Self Esteem and Independence
Forest School is child led, meaning children take charge of their own learning experiences wherever possible. Each learner is respected and given the chance to learn in their own way. This helps to improve children’s self esteem, which helps them to become more confident and independent.
Spreads the Love
Children who love being outdoors will then spread that love to their families! This in turn will encourage children to go out into the woodland and other natural spaces with their families. This inspires families to get more involved with connecting with and protecting our natural environment.
That’s just 12 reasons to love Forest School – there are many more!
Ultimately, I think as parents we are appreciating the importance of giving children the opportunity to play outside more – so they can be in nature, learn in their own way and develop their own curiosity, imagination and creative thinking. In an increasingly busy and tech filled world, we recognise how children need time to just ‘be’. Perhaps Forest School is the perfect antidote to the modern world.
I’m so happy that my son was able to go a Forest School nursery, he grew so much through his experiences there. He’s at a ‘regular school’ now, but continues to love the outdoors, something I will only encourage!
We have been over the moon to find a Forest School play group near us, which LP and I have been going to every week. It really is the highlight of our week!
Forest School has opened my eyes to a positive, fun and natural way of learning. If you have the opportunity for your child to experience a Forest School, then I would whole heartedly encourage it!
Have you experienced Forest School? What do you think of it?
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