While forest schools are more common in rural areas, forest school activities can be carried out anywhere.
Forest school activities are used to educate young children through outdoor experiences, learning and play. Stuck for things to do with kids (opens in new tab)? Look to forest schools for some inspiration centred around nature.
So what is a forest school? (opens in new tab) A forest school is a programme of teaching that uses the natural world, often forests and other green rural spaces, to teach kids personal and social skills that they would otherwise learn at school, but in a more exciting and dynamic way. Forest school encourages children to connect with the natural world, take calculated risks and aims to help them develop independence, confidence and creative thinking skills.
According to the Forest School Association (opens in new tab), forest school activities offer kids "opportunities to achieve and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland or natural environment with trees". Once the lockdown is over, you'll be free to find your nearest forest school and get your kids enrolled in one of the programmes, taught on a regular basis by trained professionals all across the country.
In the meantime, why not incorporate some of the key elements of forest school into your children's homeschooling? By setting up exploring nature as part of their home curriculum, you'll be able to get kids looking at the world around them in a whole new way, while soaking up the sunshine.
Try out these forest school activities at home...
Make a bug hotel
At forest school, the activities take place in a woodland or a natural environment as a way to connect the learner with the natural world. An activity such as building a bug hotel will help kids to recognise the common insects in their gardens, what they like to eat and how they live.
Find out how: How to make a bug hotel (opens in new tab)
Build a bird box
Birds that fly in and out of gardens make up an integral part of the ecosystem. Building a bird box like this one is relatively easy and will help you little one to foster an outlook on the natural world, from their back garden.
You will need:
- 4 pieces of wood measuring: 45cm x 15cm, 20cm x 15cm, 11cm x 15cm, 21 x 15cm
- 2 pieces of wood measuring 25cm x 20cm each
- Non-toxic, water-based paint
- Nylon bolt or wire
What to do:
1. Head into your garage and find those pieces of wood you’ve been storing forever, and join them together with nails and a hammer, after cutting them to size (back panel: 45cm x 15cm, front: 20cm x 15cm, base: 11cm x 15cm, roof: 21cm x 15cm, and two sloped side panels: 25cm at the back and 20cm at the front). 2. To attract lots of beautiful birds, create an entrance with a hole that measures 10cm high. To keep those little fingers safe, we recommend parents do the assembly and children do the fun part, decorating the bird box. 3. To give their bird box a personal touch, allow your kids to decorate it using non-toxic water-based paint and let them decorate it to their heart’s content. 4. Once finished, attached the box to your tree using a nylon bolt or wire, to reduce damage to your tree.
Create a herb garden
The best way to use the natural world to teach young children is to help them create a small piece of it themselves.
A natural herb garden like this one is a great place to start, whether you make it on the windowsill of your home or in a hanging herb garden, there are so many ways to involve growing plants and herbs into your children's homeschooling routine.
MORE: Things to do with kids: 61 activities to keep them entertained (opens in new tab)
From garden centres and many supermarkets, you can buy simple herb plants like rosemary, mint and sage. You can also buy seeds online (opens in new tab).
Make a den
One of the aims of forest school is to promote the holistic development of children, encouraging them to be confident and creative. Making a den is the perfect way to translate this idea into your forest homeschool. Encourage your children to source all the materials for the den and then work with them to create their vision.
You will need:
- Old sheets
- Pegs or stones to hold the sheets down
What to do:
1. Collect everything you can find to build the den. 2. Use trees, swing-sets, slides and fences to tie sheets to. 3. If you have a tent, include that and try covering it with leaves or sheets to camouflage it. 4. As long as you have a couple of old sheets and can think of a way to hang them, your kids imaginations will do the rest of the work.
Colour from nature with leaves and flowers
This is one of the easiest ways to incorporate forest school activities into your homeschooling curriculum. Encourage your child to go into the garden or the local park and source out leaves, bark and wild flowers for their creations.
With these, they can create colourful pictures on paper or card.
You could even try and tie dye a t-shirt (opens in new tab) with some of the natural materials. Plants like flowers and leaves with a strong colour would be perfect to dye an old t-shirt.
Build a wormery
Building a wormery is much like creating a hotel for bugs. It will teach kids about an important part of their ecosystem and encourage them to think about the world around them, however with a wormery, your little ones are also encouraged to take on some responsibility as they have to continue to feed the worms.
What to do:
1. Once you’ve collected your five or so worms, put them in a large plastic bottle, Tupperware box or old ice-cream tub with some soil from the garden. 2. Make holes in the top so they can breathe 3. Feed the worms food scraps, like eggshells and vegetable peels
Go foraging as a family
Foraging is the act of recognising, collecting and then eating wild herbs and plants that grow in nature.
While it may sound a little out of your child's comfort zone, it doesn't have to be. Something as simple as blackberry picking is a great way to get into foraging, and it will help your kids forge a connection with nature in a whole new way.
Find out how: A beginners' guide to foraging from Wilder Child (opens in new tab)
The most important part about incorporating elements of forest school into your child's homeschooling curriculum is that they have fun, as well as learn important lessons from and about nature.