As the 2021 lockdown restrictions eased, back in March, the country saw the re-opening of face-to-face schooling and we prepared for a return to our Forest School program with local nurseries. I hadn’t seen the children since before Christmas and although we’d had great fun, some of those sessions had been in simply awful weather. I hoped we might be in for some brighter weather with signs of change and hope for us all.
It was a delight to see familiar little faces filled with excitement and expectation, calling my name and reminding me of our ‘Welcome’ song.
They told me of the walks they’d been on and shared some of the wildest moments they had experienced. For some children however, the lockdowns have been a very different story; other than going to nursery, our Forest School sessions have been the only time spent outside of their own home, owing to a multitude of social factors.
This made any anxiety I felt about returning to delivery wash away with an understanding of just how important these sessions are for the health and wellbeing of our children.
Spring was crisp, sunny, sometimes wet, but always full of smiles and excitement.
Summer is proving to be hot, full of blue skies, and speeding by at a rate of knots! We sing, read, play games, explore and learn together in a safe and nurturing environment.
Whilst immersed in nature, simple crafts, tool work, and collecting natural materials is a lovely way to develop fine motor skills. We explore movement, building on gross motor skills and confidence, and use our imagination to make perfumes, potions, and stories, all adding to the children’s understanding of the world.
A staff member commented, ‘It has been nice to take some of these ideas away and prepare resources for us to use in our daily practice and move away from the structured play’.
As a Forest School practitioner that’s music to my ears!
Having regular sessions in the same location allows for a deep understanding and connection with our natural environment as the children experience change in a familiar place.
They have grown in confidence within an environment that encourages healthy and supported risk-taking; using, tools, toasting snacks, holding a worm, getting muddy, rolling, climbing, and balancing. The nursery lead told me,
‘I learned a lot myself and I felt the children’s language and development increased within the Forest School environment; it opens up opportunities for some children, who don’t speak up in the nursery, to find their voice.’
Just like our natural world, our children are spectacularly resilient when given the opportunity to thrive.
With only a few weeks left until we break for the summer holidays I can reflect and see how much these children have grown and what a privilege it is to have been part of their journey.
They will soon be moving on to primary school and I’m proud to see them ready and raring. I hope Forest School has made a lasting connection with our natural world and provided some form of consistent normality during the last year.
Good luck Ladybirds and Butterflies!