My four-year-old (last time I wrote about her, she was only three!) has always been a lover of water and mud.
When she started nursery before her first birthday, each day there would be a change of clothing because she had crawled straight into the water tuff tray or spent time investigating in the garden. This never bothered me at all. I know some parents aren’t keen for their children to return home with lots of washing to be done. However, for me, it means they haven’t been cooped up inside all day repeating the same activity day in day out.
Although we had never visited the Out There Forest School (Attleborough, Norfolk) before, I had heard great things from fellow parents and staff members. Communication with them was exceptional and they were able to adapt things to meet the needs to suit all of her friends, the party-goers. In fact, the ‘fairies and elves’ theme was one that my daughter had insisted upon and the team was more than happy to oblige.
Upon arrival, we were greeted by friendly, smiley staff and immediately felt at ease. As we walked from the car park to the forest school, both ladies chatted about what was around us (including bees hard at work)and showed guests where to leave presents. The initial chat around what would soon become the campfire was great. Explaining what equipment there was to use and activities to do, all the children’s eyes were lit up, excitement bubbling. From swings to a mud kitchen, a potion making area to a wand making activity, there was something for absolutely everyone, including the mums and dads! Each area allows for role play opportunities, turn-taking and potentially the chance to confront fears.
The opportunity to help light the fire, and watch the sausages and burgers being cooked were leapt on by my youngest. I definitely heard a squeal of delight when, after eating the savoury part of the food, they were informed they could toast marshmallows over the fire. We are so protective of our children around mud, water and fire etc, that it was wonderful to see them taking risks and learning how to do things safely.
Overall, we couldn’t have asked for a better experience. We were lucky with the weather (though it would have gone ahead come wind or rain anyway!) and all the children left a little muddier than they’d arrived, but with enormous smiles on their faces and a reluctance to leave the magical world in which they’d spent the afternoon.
The Forest School Association describes each participant as:
- equal, unique and valuable
- competent to explore & discover
- entitled to experience appropriate risk and challenge
- entitled to choose, and to initiate and drive their own learning and development
- entitled to experience regular success
- entitled to develop positive relationships with themselves and other people
- entitled to develop a strong, positive relationship with their natural world
Although, it is the belief of the Forest School Association that participants take part on a regular basis rather than as a one off, from today’s party, I can see that even irregular attendance could have a positive impact on children’s self-esteem and confidence levels.
Paula Franklin asserts that a forest school can be a better environment than a nursery or preschool when it comes to role play because “it is completely child-led and there are no directional toys… a stick can be anything they want it to be!” She adds, “it’s the richest form of social learning, in my opinion, and encourages deep involvement as well as being great fun, which is important for learning!”
According to the Out There Forest School, “Freedom and choice is at the heart of our ethos, and with experienced, passionate, nurturing staff on hand to support their journeys, your children will flourish during their time in the woods.” Hand on heart, from what I saw today, I believe every word of that. With the chance of bushcraft sessions once a month and holiday clubs, I am certain both of my daughters will be nagging for us to return!
Out There Forest School