Children are spending more time indoors than ever before despite all evidence telling parents how beneficial it is for them to spend their time playing outside. Concerns about the dangers of climbing trees or getting lost makes parents hesitant to allow their child to engage in risky activities. But research has shown that this type of outdoor play has many benefits for children, including helping them to develop emotional resilience.
Over the last 15 or so years, schools have begun to recognise how important this is for children, with many of them taking pupils outside. One program that has seen an increase in popularity is Forest School.
This is an outdoor learning initiative that uses outdoor play in wooded areas as a mechanism for learning and development. In the UK it can be traced back to the early 1990s when groups of early years educators in Somerset’s Bridgewater College spent a day in Denmark. They noticed that the Scandinavian value of open-air living was carried over into the education system. Upon their return they developed the first Forest School in the college with a B-Tech qualification for Forest School practice. Today the Forest School Association has more than 1,500 members.
These give children and young people alike the chance to explore the natural environment, experience appropriate risks and challenges, as well as directing their own learning. Research has shown that Forest School helps to stimulate imaginative play with hands-on engagement with the natural world.