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Parent Guide: Forest School

Children in Forest

Here at The Butterfly Patch, we absolutely love Forest School, in fact we have weekly sessions at each of our nurseries as well as running a full Forest School in Morden Park.

But why? What’s the point? And what do children do at Forest School anyway? Does it support their learning?

We’re here to answer these questions and more!

It might sound like a bit of a trend but did you know this outdoor learning approach actually dates back to Scandinavia in the 1950s?

It was then formally introduced in the UK in the 1990s. You can find out all about the history by clicking here.

What is Forest School?

In summary, Forest School can be held anywhere outside from parks to gardens and forests!

Sessions can be held in all weather conditions (as long as conditions are safe, and yes this includes rain) and involve children getting in touch with nature as they play in natural environments.

This allows children to experience challenges, developing skills that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to learn in the classroom – giving them better practice for getting out in the real world in the future.

Now let’s look at what the children get up to!

Forest School practitioners are trained to plan, observe and make changes to sessions so that each activity is catered to the children’s likes, interests and developmental stages.

The sessions are child-led so there are hundreds of options for different activities!

Some examples include: foraging, tree climbing, hunting for bugs, building and cooking on fires, learning to use tools, sensory play, team activities incl. roleplay and material gathering, tree climbing, natural crafts and so much more!

Some of these may sound a little dangerous but don’t worry – Forest School practitioners are well-trained to ensure each activity takes place within a controlled environment, keeping things safe.

Children in Forest School

So, with all the potential for different activities, what are the benefits?

Being outdoors comes with lots of positives from helping your little one’s physical development (both gross and fine motor skills) to being great for their overall wellbeing and mental health.

Through the various activities, little ones are able to better develop their EYFS skills in a much more holistic way by working on various areas e.g. communication, physical development and understanding the world all at the same time.

To put this in perspective; in a normal nursery setting, children would focus on one skill at a time, for instance, drawing activities for fine motor skills.

At Forest School, children would instead forage for materials, create paint brushes together from these materials and paint using wildlife inspiration – so working to develop most of their EYFS skills in just one activity!

Forest School being child-led also teaches children important life skills like independence, resilience, risk-taking, self-confidence and so much more.

Finally, it allows children to begin to understand the wider world around them through nature e.g. learning about the importance of ecosystems, being able to identify local wildlife and more.

Toddler in nature

So, Forest School comes with some amazing benefits for your little one… now how can you support them if they attend sessions?

First of all, if you have any questions, concerns or worries about Forest School sessions, please speak to your key person or nursery manager.

They will be able to answer any questions you have and give you more information.

This is vital as your little one will be able to sense that you’re not 100% on-board and may become nervous before their session.

Secondly, be sure that your little one is dressed suitably. Wellies, waterproofs, long-sleeved tops, and trousers (to protect their arms and legs).

Hats and gloves for winter and sun hats and sun cream for summer!

We recommend buying at least some of these items second hand as clothing brands account for a whopping 10% of our global pollution (this is more than airplane travel!).

Or here are some of our favourite sustainable clothing brands:

Again, if you’re unsure at any point, chat to your nursery manager or key person!

Reminder: your little one will get messy so don’t send them to nursery in their best clothes – also worth providing spares for the really messy days!

And finally, did you know you can continue this learning outside of nursery?! Or if sessions aren’t yet offered where you are, you can kickstart them at home!

All you need is to head down to the garden, park or forest and try these out:

Disclaimer – we only recommend trying out sensory or crafting activities. Using tools, making fires can be dangerous without a qualified practitioner supervising.

Nature tray to learn parts of a flower from Living Montessori Now – click here for the full guide.

Painting on sticks from Emma Owl – click here for the full guide.

Nature shapes math activity from Nurture Store – click here for the full guide.

Printing with stones from Emma Owl – click here for the full guide.

Leaf fishing from Wilder Child – click here for the full guide.

Nature portraits from Adventure in a Box – click here for the full guide.

For more activity ideas from The Ladybirds Adventures ideal for children aged 2 click here.


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