The other day I had the pleasure of documenting the gorgeous Suddick Family at the Hidden Woods Forest School just outside of Bath, Somerset. It was an incredibly fun and inspiring morning and did my mind and soul more good than mindfulness or meditation has done for me in a long time.
It was the saplings toddler class that we joined and once we had been briefed on safety and the forest boundaries, you were free to explore, learn and create. Free being the operative word. There is no set 'class' routine or 'ways of working'. On offer there was a craft table where the children could make a horse from sticks, socks, wool and newspaper and beads. There was a mud mountain where your little one could literally roll around in the mud if they wanted. There were hammocks and camouflage tents for some relaxing and hiding. There was a life-size woden xylophone, ropes hanging from trees to swing. There was a beautiful, large mud kitchen complete with its own muddy microwave! And there was a large open tent and covered area with benches and a gorgeous campfire. After an hour or so of exploring the activities on offer, it was time for a snack around the campfire and some singing. The morning was finished off toasting marshmallo's, can't really get much better than that can it?
The whole morning filled me with such joy and light and inspiration and an incredible feeling of well being and confidence, that I took my own little 20month old boy there the following week. It was the perfect place for him! He is on the go and into everything and this wonderful refreshing approach to learning through exploring and creating and nature was just amazing. Being in nature eases our stress and worry, it helps us to relax and to think more clearly. It can restore our mood, give us back our energy and vitality, refresh and rejuvenate us. We know as adults we feel better and more awake and brighter from being outside, so why would our kids not feel the same? And it's not even about exercising. You don't need to run or jog or hike to feel the benefits. You can feel it just by simply BEING in nature, connecting with it through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch.
All children are different, in the ways they behave, learn and think. Forest school facilitates learning from a number of different angles and attempts to find the ones which work for a particular child. It offers a new way of looking at how children learn, offering them new learning tools and a way for you to find effective ways of allowing that learning to happen.