Forest Kindergarten – Local Nature Play

The child’s right to be a child, By Marina Robb



Cross Sticks

Children are by nature curious and playful.  There is a reason for that.  Self-directed exploration and play are how they learn.  Children were designed by nature to educate themselves by playing and exploring.

I was fortunate enough to meet Juliet Robertson at the South Downs Outdoor Learning Conference in 2016.  We had both tried to find each other and finally we managed a few moments – Juliet wanted to talk to me about my first book, Learning with Nature, and I wanted to talk to her about all her outdoor work in Scotland and beyond.  I absolutely loved how she framed so many outdoor learning ideas and she introduced me to David Sobel’s work.  For me as someone who has always struggled with Math’s, she has reframed so many ideas into a playful way to approach curriculum subjects.

Indeed, as teachers we both share this interest in how to make learning fun and engaging and accessible for both Early Years and Primary teachers.  We talked for many hours and after several working partnerships, Juliet generously offered a train the trainer in the Forest Kindergarten Scottish Model in July 2019.   A wonderful group of early years and outdoor practitioners were gathered from across England and Wales, and we had the pleasure of training together.

Forest Kindergarten - Local Nature Play

It was from this training that the working group was created and after a year of meetings and reflections the new Forest Kindergarten Level 3: Local Nature Play has arrived!  This was not a straightforward creation.  It mattered to us all that we both respected the Scottish roots of this model, whilst appreciating the European model that is a far more immersive, full-time experience.

We grappled with names and wanted to be as inclusive as possible. We knew from our years of experience working in this field that the ‘horse had escaped’.  What this meant was that there were already multiple names in existence that people were using to describe outdoor play and their settings.  From outdoor nurseries, forest schools, nature and forest kindergartens, and others!  We acknowledged the success of forest schools yet understood that a Forest School Level 3 qualification was not necessarily suitable for all early year’s practitioners, and certainly they may not be accessing forests. 

We loved the roots of ‘kindergarten’ being a ‘garden for children’ but knew that the forest part was not necessarily equating with local greenspace.  The Forest Kindergarten: Local Nature Play training needed to enable early years practitioners to take their groups into local green spaces.  It needed to be play-based and not curriculum-based, yet we respected that playing outdoors can be easily and successfully back-linked to the early year’s curriculum.  

Forest Kindergarten

So, Forest Kindergarten: Local Nature Play was born!  We intended this to be aspirational and for the outdoors to be valuable.  That a practitioner could begin from the very local, move further to the parks and green spaces and perhaps the wilder woods.  They could begin with regular time to play outdoors and extend this to the full day or week even, if appropriate, alongside gaining confidence and following the child’s learning and development.

To hold this qualification, we have the ‘Principles’.   Co-created and influenced by Professor Jan White’ s important contribution. The learning outcomes were created to enable practitioners in early years settings to see the possibilities and harness the learning and health opportunities of local natural settings.

The training supports practitioners in early years settings to feel and be safe, competent, and confident in taking young children off site to local natural settings on a regular and frequent basis.   At the same time, it helps young learners to establish a robust connection with local nature.

Who is this Forest Kindergarten training 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)

What is included in the training?

  • Pre-course webinar
  • 3 training days in our stunning Sussex woodland
  • Recognised certification, awarded by the Open College Network West Midlands
  • A detailed handbook to support you as you continue to develop Forest Kindergarten principles once back in your setting
  • Level 3 qualification in Forest Kindergarten: Local Nature Play

If you’d like to join us and gain your qualification, please follow this link to find out more.

The next course begins in Sussex on October 13th (Dates October 13th, 14th and 21st)

The Essential Guide to Forest School & Nature PedagogyMarina Robb (PGCE; MsC, MA) is Founder and Managing Director of Circle of Life Rediscovery CIC and The Outdoor Teacher Ltd, organisations that aim to transform education and health through nature. She is a leading author, green practitioner and educator in the outdoor sector, an international trainer in the design and delivery of nature-based experiences and an advocate for the integration of environmental, education and health and well-being services.

The Essential Guide to Forest School & Nature PedagogyMarina is Co-Author of ‘Learning with Nature’ (Green Books) & ‘The Essential Guide to Forest School and Nature Pedagogy’(Routledge)