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BLOG: The benefits of forest school

Having been warmly invited to become a Hygge in the early years ambassador we have become passionate about creating a natural and holistic approach to learning. We participate in Forest School sessions with Vicky a fellow childminding friend who is a qualified Forest School Leader. We meet with our minded children weekly throughout the year regardless of the weather, ages of children and location. We believe Forest school is crucial in facilitating an engaging learning space for children, creating an environment, where they are free to explore the outdoors continuously due to the openness it provides.

Forest School has become a weekly ritual in our setting - we use the local woodlands where the children have become familiar with their surroundings. They get very excited when putting on their wellies and waterproofs which we encourage the children to do this independently if we feel they are able to.

Although the Cornish weather can be unpredictable we adapt each session accordingly to the conditions to make it an enjoyable experience in a nurturing environment. Even in the wind and rain we attend Forest School sessions, however we will perhaps take den building to create a sheltered space so we are still able to learn safely and comfortably. During the winter we ensure the children are dressed appropriately with hats, scarves and gloves. However, this does not seem to phase the children at all as they are all eager to attend the sessions and get very excited when they see Forest School on our visual time table in the setting.

Nearing the end of a session we always finish with the Kelly Kettle fire for a much needed hot chocolate after all that learning and adventuring in the outdoors. The children are becoming increasingly involved in helping prepare the fire; understanding the appropriate boundaries and behaviour required around the fire in order to keep them safe.

Forest School provides endless learning opportunities - a favourite of ours this term has been the ‘Forest School TV’. The children were tasked with finding an item they found interesting and bringing it to the TV to talk about the properties and characteristics. This increases their knowledge of different leaves, natural treasures as well as their confidence.

Depending on the Forest School themes we will require the use of tools to create crafts as well as enhancing the learning experience. The children are becoming familiar with the names of the different tools and their uses. For example: knowing a saw is for cutting, peeler for whittling etc.

As we are on the build up to Christmas we have swopped out our ‘traditional plastic crafts’ and have alternatively created natural decorations as gifts for our families. We have recently created a hanging Christmas tree. This provided children the opportunity to forage for sticks of different sizes, to whittle the wood using a peeler and becoming proud of their creations. This creates a more personalised approached as the children are at the heart of the products made at forest school.

Within our setting we have created a role-play campfire with a tee-pee, the children often role-play what they have experienced from forest School and represent it within their day to day play with their friends. At lunchtime following a forest school session the children will often reflect back upon their morning and talk about what they encountered and learnt at forest school, particularly individual achievements that they are proud of.

Forest School has a positive impact on children’s health and wellbeing as it gives them the opportunity to form a relationship with nature by exploring the outdoors, therefore this increases their self-confidence, self-awareness and self-esteem. The openness boundaries of Forest School allows the children to develop their physical skills both gross and finer as well as exposing them to manageable risks, which they can assess and learn new skills from - essential for healthy child development.

About the author

Sam Goldsworthy childminding is a mum and daughter team (Sam and Immy) who are based in Cornwall. We are really passionate about continuously changing and adapting our provision to suit the needs of the children in our care, promoting their innate curiosity. We believe the best classroom for children is in the outdoors and you will often find us out and about at the local beaches, woodlands and national trust places.

Follow Sam on Facebook and Instagram.

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