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Forest School can start at home

Boost your child’s self-esteem and development with outdoor child led play

You’ve probably heard about Forest Schools – they are growing fast with over 8000 in the UK. Forest School is a child-led educational approach that nurtures an appreciation for the natural world and helps children develop essential life skills. 

The aim of Forest School is to get children out into nature, encouraging them to learn through a variety of experiences that put them in touch with the natural world. It’s a type of early education that lets children explore and learn in a natural environment without adults ‘teaching’ them.

two small children playing and having fun in the mud with toys and sticks

Forest Schools has its roots in Scandinavia, where the ‘friluftsliv’ (‘free air life’) culture is a core part of education. This way of thinking made its way to the UK in the 1990s, and has since grown in popularity, to the point where most early years educators try to incorporate some of its teachings into their daily work.

Forest School is now embedded in mainstream childcare

As the evidence stacks up on the importance of children spending time outside and the wonderful development opportunities that unstructured play can bring, you might be wondering how your child can experience these benefits. 

Many nurseries and childminders have invested in training staff in Forest education, while not an official Forest School they may build this learning into the activities and outings they do with the kids.

This training is available for nannies too, giving your child the opportunity to spend their day having outdoor adventures.

Climbing trees, balancing on logs, finding minibeasts and counting stones. Story time in the woods, and picnics in the great outdoors. The possibilities are endless.

Our nannies are passionate about outdoor learning and play. By hiring a nanny, your child or baby can get outdoors more—find out more here.

What are the six principles of Forest Education?

  1. Forest Schools should be a long-term commitment to regular and frequent visits, rather than occasional workshops.
  2. Forest Schools should take place in a natural environment – ideally woodland – to foster a connection between the learner and nature.
  3. Forest Schools fosters the development of independent learners who are confident, resilient and creative.
  4. Forest School offers learners a chance to take risks in a safe, supportive environment.
  5. Forest School is run by qualified professionals who are dedicated to the development of their craft.
  6. Forest School promotes a culture of learning and development through the use of learner-centred processes.

Why is time spent outside so important for children’s development?

There are so many physical benefits of getting outside developing gross motor skills naturally while exploring parks or woods.

Spending time outdoors also helps boost youngsters’ immune systems, foster independence, and plays a vital role in children’s cognitive, social, emotional and physical development.

Sir Ken Robinson, leading expert in human development, and chair of the Dirt is Good Child Development Advisory Board, has said: “academic research shows that active play is the natural and primary way that children learn. It is essential to their healthy growth and progress, particularly during periods of rapid brain development. Yet, too often play is disregarded as frivolous and pointless.”

No matter what the weather’s up to, getting outside and playing is hugely beneficial for kids. It’s great for their health, their mind and their self-esteem and development.

Plus, they genuinely love it. When they spend more time in nature, they’re more likely to grow up caring about the planet. It’s a win-win for them and Mother Earth!

small child exploring the textures of gravel, surrounded by greenery and flowers in a calm outdoor setting

How to incorporate outdoor play and learning into everyday life

Christina Dee, founder of the Forest Schools Learning Initiative, has shared valuable guidance on the best way to incorporate Forest Schools into everyday life—just get outdoors!

Let youngsters explore the world around them, and let them figure out for themselves what they’re interested in. Everyone who works in childcare knows that even the best laid plans never quite go to plan when kids are involved—embrace that!

Let the children take the lead, and do what interests them—by doing this, children build problem-solving skills, independence, and resilience.

This might mean that you end up with some very muddy, soggy children by the end of the day, and that’s okay! Forest education means embracing the outdoors in every sense of the word, and letting children find their own way.

Here are our favourite ways to incorporate outdoor play into every day 

For babies: 

  • Take babies and toddlers outside every day. The sooner you introduce them to nature, the more likely they’ll grow up with a deep love for the great outdoors. Even the littlest ones enjoy it and learn while surrounded by nature’s wonders 
  • Take a stroll among the trees using a carrier or stroller, or lay down a cozy blanket on the grass or soft ground. Let your little one soak in the fresh air, listen to the birds chirping, and explore the different scents and textures of the plants 
  • Take tummy time outside! Blowing bubbles for them to reach and watch sparkle in the sunlight adds an extra dose of fun

For toddlers and preschoolers:

  • Take a stroll around your own garden looking for insects, twigs, sticks and stones and build your very own bug hotel
  • Build nature sculptures with twigs, leaves, cones, rocks and more by sticking the collected items into a play dough base
  • Create your very own mud kitchen in your garden – use leftover ice cream tubs, old spoons, bowls, water and get stuck in making those mud pies 
  • Go for a scoot or bicycle ride. Describe what you see along the way. Engage all your senses
  • Take story time outside – grab a blanket and a few books and find a gorgeous shady spot under a beautiful big tree
  • Have some outdoor play dates – meet up with friends, outside, while the kids build up their self-esteem and confidence among their peers, it also boosts imagination

We know it’s not always easy to get yourself and the kids outside – especially when you throw in work commitments, school, the weather and so much more.

But by using a nanny for all, or even some of the days you need childcare, a nanny can do this for you, giving you peace of mind that your children have had the benefits of outdoor play on those days. 

If you are thinking about hiring a nanny, you can find out more here.

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