Regardless of age, the first part of every Forest School session is for all children to familiarise themselves with the environment and identify any hazards or potential problems – so that they can then feel confident and free to explore, knowing that they have contributed to their own understanding of their safety. After that, Forest School is a fluid process which means that the children’s interests can guide the session. Of course, there will always be an activity, craft and game planned so that we can come round to those things throughout the session too. If it is a ‘fire session’ we will have popcorn, crumpets, marshmallows or bananas on the fire as well as drinks – while having a storytelling session, book reading or singing. Non-fire sessions will still have snacks with a more active resting activity.
All of our practitioners hold qualifications accredited with the Forest School Association and have been fully trained in the safe handling, proper instruction and risk assessing of all tools and activities used in Forest School. One of the central tenants of Forest School is that children must learn to assess and determine risk as well as to learn how to manage and work with those risks. So we do not want children in a bubble where they cannot experience risk – we want children to become smart about risk and feel confident that they can make sensible choices when dealing with risky situations – a skill that will stand them in good stead when they are teenagers and out from under your watchful eyes!
By all means – have fun and play with your child! But let’s let them lead the way. So, ask them what they think they should do, use leading questions to get them to think about consequences, give them a chance to make mistakes so that they can see where they went wrong. Parents don’t need to build for their child. Parents don’t need to make sure that their child has ‘done well’. Parents don’t need to worry that their child isn’t as good as the others. Parents DO need to laugh. Parents DO need to not be afraid of getting muddy (We recommend biological washing powder!) Parents DO need to remember that the most important part of Forest School is being at Forest School. Parents might also have to help their child go to the loo!
Obviously, the top tip is to go before you get to Forest School. But this will not always work. Your Forest School leader carries with them a portable potty and disposable bags for catching if you think your child will not be comfortable doing a ‘nature wee’.
We have a bad weather policy which you are welcome to read in full, just let us know. In a nutshell, Forest School is an all-weather activity – part of the beauty of the process is the children getting to experience nature and all of its changes. Remember, rain, mud and puddles are joys for small children – it is us grown ups that teach them to stay away from it. So, unless it is dangerously windy, treacherously icy or thunderstorming, we will be in the woods! It is a good idea to always be in waterproofs – that way your clothes stay cleanish. But nonetheless it is a good idea to bring a dry set of clothes to change into at the end of the session. Bring a spare pair of socks and a spare pair of gloves with you during the session so you can swap them halfway through if your little one is wet. Check out our What to Wear page for a detailed list of our recommended clothing. Remember – there’s no such thing as bad weather – only badly dressed people.
All of our leaders are fully trained to ensure that children are kept safe. In the unlikely event of an injury, all of our leaders are also fully trained to deliver Outdoor First Aid, the highest level of first aid training. All tool use is fully supervised, all fires are managed by a group leader, all tree climbing is fully encouraged. We are also fully insured with public liability insurance for Forest School practitioners. Feel free to ask to see details of the policy.