children playing with childminder

What is a forest school? And why outdoor learning is so great for kids

Originating from Scandinavia, forest schools have seen a recent surge in interest here in the UK. Using woodlands as their classrooms, forest schools help children develop a love for the outdoors through campfire cooking, mudpie making and crafting tools from twigs and stones. Research show that the benefits of forest education are far-reaching—improved balance, confidence and encouraging a natural curiosity. But what actually is a forest school?

Looking for a forest school near you?

children playing with childminder

So… what is a forest school?

A forest school is a form of early years childcare which takes place in forests and woodlands. The curriculum is based on child-led outdoor play, which aims to harness childrens’ curiosity and exploration. Children at forest schools learn through hands-on experiences and develop their imaginations through limited and simple resources—things like mud and sticks. 

Activities vary depending on the childrens’ age. Common forest school activities include learning woodland crafts, climbing trees and crafting natural tools. Younger children can also get involved, with activities like bug hunting, mud painting and collecting twigs.

What are the benefits of outdoor learning?

Holistic development is a key aim of forest school. The child-led philosophy encourages children to be resilient, independent and confident learners. There are also benefits for childrens’ social skills. Children become more aware of the consequences of their actions on peers through team activities like building dens and sharing tools.

Research proves that spending time outdoors has a positive effect on childrens’ mental health, too. Children tend to be more attentive and less anxious if they spend more time in nature.

The increase in outdoor activity also has a positive physical impact. They are physically stronger, more agile and sleep better at night. Additionally, outdoor play develops childrens’ balance, climbing and sensory skills.

Skills developed by children at forest schools:

  • Independence
  • Creativity
  • Problem-solving
  • Resilience
  • Self-awareness

Looking for childcare where your child will spend time outdoors?

Is a forest school right for my child?

If you’re keen for your child to grow in confidence, resilience, and develop a lifelong love of the outdoors, forest schools are a brilliant childcare option.

We were inspired by forest schools and the research that backs up this unique form of childcare when we built our Home Nursery service. Our Early Educators are forest education trained, so children spend each morning out and about, exploring the nearby parks and green spaces, before returning for a home-cooked meal and to continue their learning into the afternoon. As a result, children at Home Nursery develop a lifelong love for nature and the outdoors.

In addition to forest education principles, our Early Educators closely follow the Early Years Foundation Stage—the same curriculum followed by nurseries. We also emphasise emotional resilience. Small numbers (3 children to 1 caregiver) mean our Early Educators get to know your child inside out. Children leave a Koru Kids Home Nursery reared and ready to start primary school.

Want to find out more about Home Nursery and our forest school ethos? Browse home nurseries near you and read more here.

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