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Make Your Own Forest School

Forest School is a programme of learning, delivered outdoors, in specially designed environments, by qualified practitioners. They are based on the principle that many children learn better when they are outdoors, in direct contact with nature, and when they take the lead with the learning activities.

Whilst you can't train yourself over night to be a Forest School practitioner, there are a few principles that you can use to guide the outdoor play you enjoy with your children.

So head to the woods, local park, or even your own back garden with warm clothes, a thermos of hot chocolate and some tasty treats, and enjoy an entertaining, educational experience, with these ideas.

Forest School Tips

1. Get Outside Being outside stimulates the senses whilst relieving stress. Studies have shown that simply being surrounded by green leaves and grass can have a relaxing effect on adults and children. For some children who particularly enjoy sensory stimulation and find the classroom full of distractions, being outdoors in a meadow, woodland or even their own back garden, provides an ideal learning environment.

2. Prepare Activities Have some activities in mind, and have the resources to hand, but allow the children to take the lead. You can explain the activities you have planned, and set the resources out, then respond to whatever interests the children.

3. Every Game Is A Learning Opportunity It might be hard to see it at first, but every game is a learning opportunity. Step back and watch the children play, then notice what science, maths and even literacy lessons they are teaching themselves. You can help reinforce their learning by articulating what you see. By learning through play, and interacting with natural objects, the lessons are more easily learnt and recalled later.

Forest School Activities

Here's a few ideas to inspire you and the children: * Take a ball of string and use the climbing frame or a tree to create a spider's web. * Drape a sheet or some tarpaulin over string held between two posts to create a den. * Rub a crayon over paper held over different textures like stones and bark. * Turn over logs and stones to hunt for bugs. * Make mud pies by adding water to mud. * Collect as many natural colours as you can, by hunting for brightly coloured leaves, berries, stones and sticks. * Paint faces onto the trees using mud. * Make crowns from the treasures you find in the woods. * Use potato peelers to whittle sticks (under supervision) - great for toasting marshmallows on a fire. * Make nests from twigs, leaves and grass cuttings for your soft toys. * Use flour to either mark out the path where you've walked, or to lay a treasure trail for the children to follow. * Collect conkers, then paint them different colours, or better still, dip them in glue and roll them in glitter. * Do the same with leaves. * Or sticks.

The only limit is your imagination. Head out with some string, sheets and craft supplies and you can make use of the outdoor classrooms nature has given us for an hour or more.

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