Forest Kindergarten – Growing Together
By Louise Hack
Our children are growing up in a society with many different and complex experiences, social media playing one part in all of this.
I find myself pondering…what do we really want for our children? What helps children thrive and grow? Has this really changed from long ago?
Recent events have thrown a huge ‘reflective’ curveball and has made many of us stop, think, reflect and question what IS really important in our lives. Do we want constant rushing, stress, moving quickly from one thing to the next OR do we want more time to be spent on being in the present, being mindful, spending more time on exploration and being
emotionally and physically engaged.
Nature Play and Growing Together
Children (and adults) continue to learn through exploring their environment using their senses, being physical beings and learning to move their body. They make connections with their surroundings, repeating and rehearsing to gain confidence and a feeling of accomplishment.
Children need to experience a sense of freedom, risk and self satisfaction and know that it’s ok to make mistakes because ultimately, we can learn from these.
So… what experiences can help children to develop all that has been mentioned? Quite simply… being outdoors. There has been HUGE amounts of research to demonstrate that being outdoors can lead to children feeling healthier, happier and more relaxed.
But, how can we, as adults, help to ‘grow’ a child in the outdoors?
- Embrace the unexpected – splash in puddles, experience the cold rain and frosty mornings, dip our toes in the sea and understand that learning can be messy and unpredictable! Basically, any excuse to fully immerse yourself in nature, your
surroundings and engage the senses.
- Play – put your inhibitions to one side and know that little ones adore your every move! Be silly, be caring, be playful and get down on their level. Ask for permission to play, follow their lead and understand that play can be complex. Being in nature encourages imagination and creativity, natural objects can ‘become’ anything in play and sometimes just dragging a stick along the floor repetitively allows for schemas to be explored and developed. Take time to observe. Relish all play in any form, don’t take it for granted and tread carefully… for children are always watching!!!
- Build a community – children learn from multiple beings and different experiences. Take time to embrace your local community and get to know the people and their lives on your patch! By growing a community around a child helps them to connect, feel a sense of belonging and identify with others. It really is true ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’
- Show gratitude – we are one part of life and life is so precious. Take every opportunity to speak kindly and learn to look after one another, including the natural world. Be kind to the birds and gift seed when you leave a site, cover up your footprints on leaving and ask permission to the Grandmother Tree to enter a local space and play. Be grateful for all that surrounds you and never take it for granted.
The Forest Kindergarten: Local Nature Play training course approach supports all of these key aspects mentioned above. The training is based around playful, child-centered learning and provides the space and freedom to explore using all senses.
Children will have the opportunity to become immersed in their surroundings, gain a deeper sense of connection to their local community, direct their own learning and ultimately have a greater appreciation of nature.
Key Information answered for the training:
What if I don’t have enough outside space or woodland?
Don’t worry! The aim of this training is to consider other local greenspaces available to you. It could be a beach, park, private access to land or your own woodland access. During the training, we discuss how to evaluate a site for safety as well as discussing insurances needed including public liability and landowner permissions to ensure you have a solid toolkit to explore when evaluating a suitable site.
What experience do I need to do the training?
Forest Kindergarten Level 3 is for people who understand the importance of play and the outdoors for children’s health and wellbeing and capacity to learn.
The course is suitable for:
- All Early Years Practitioners holding or working towards a Level 3 Early Years qualification or equivalent
- Forest School Leaders or outdoor practitioners with a good understanding of early years practice
- Level 2 early years practitioners (will need to be supervised by a Level 2 early years practitioner in a leadership role)
Louise Hack is a qualified teacher, Forest School Practitioner and Early Years Professional with over 20 years of experience. Over the last 20 years she has worked in various primary and infant schools in East and West Sussex taking on many different roles including Early Years lead, Specialist Early Years and Literacy leader across the county, Deputy Head and Head of School. Read more.
Marina Robb (Bsc; PGCE; MA; Msc; Author) is Founder and Managing Director of Circle of Life Rediscovery Community Interest Company and The Outdoor Teacher Ltd, both leading organisations that aim to transform education and health through nature. She is co-author of ‘Learning with Nature’, considered a must-have book for Forest School & Outdoor practitioners and ‘The Essential Guide to Forest School and Nature Pedagogy’. Read more.