“If you go down to the woods today…”
What will you see? You may see young children exploring, using the natural environment to build cubbies, using sticks to dig in the mud or just having fun playing in the dirt. The Forest School Approach is not a new concept but has been around since 1950 in Scandinavia.
You may ask, how is the Forest School approach ‘teaching’ our children or getting them ready for school, when all they do is play outside with sticks and run around the forest in the dirt? Skeptical ? Yes, so was I…
As an educator who has worked within the Early Childhood sector for 19 years and a mother with young children at the time, I did not understand the importance of children being outdoors; I mean, they would be all dirty!
Back to my role as an educator, how could I promote outdoor play if I was not a believer myself? In my own childhood we did not have the option of playing inside, when your mother was busy you had to go outside and make your own play. I can still remember making mud pies and potions with water and the rose petals and leaves. Alternatively, playing chasey with my friends and only coming home when I was hungry or when mum shouted me in because it was getting dark. So what was the change from childhood to adulthood for me? A sedentary lifestyle and the use of technology was the answer. Why go outside when you can do everything you need with a click of a button?
So how do we change the sedentary lifestyle that has become the norm for our children and us as adults? Simple! Go outside with children into the bush, the woods, the forest, get them away from the TV, iPad, mobile phones, let them explore, take in the natural environment and look at what our beautiful country offers. Research shows that children who have the opportunity to be outdoors in nature not only helps them to learn socially, physically and educationally, but allows children to explore in a more constructive way and take risks. Instead of wrapping children in cotton wool and not letting them climb, discover and get dirty, take off the reigns. Let them climb trees; they will only go as high as they feel comfortable. Let them pick up sticks to use as magic wands, let their imaginations run free. Take in the fresh air, let your own mind wander, reconnect with your childhood, have fun whilst keeping fit and healthy… just enjoy… social media can wait! You will blink and your children will be adults. Help them reclaim what childhood is all about. Let them just be a child… Doing what children like to do best.
Just let them play outside!