Outdoor family activities

Outdoor play ideas from forest school

First taste of forest school

Last week we went to Skylarks Forest School, which takes place in a private wood in the Lyme Park estate in Disley, Stockport. It was a very sunny day, and I was worried we would get a bit hot and bothered – especially as I had baby Rosa in a sling. But the shade of the trees was the perfect place to keep cool.

Sitting around the camp fire for lunch and snacks at forest school
Sitting around the camp fire for lunch and snacks at forest school

It was a brilliant session and Charlie loved it. He got involved with all the games and activities, made a new friend and keeps talking about his ‘new school’. He’s going to be really disappointed when he starts reception and realises it’s not like forest school!

The children were free to play and explore during the forest school session
The children were free to play and explore during the forest school session

The session took place over four hours and was led by two teachers. It was very relaxed and although the emphasis was on child-led play and exploration, they had a number of activities to try out. Some of these ideas are below.

Boy in a hammock at forest school
Keeping cool under the trees at forest school

Bake a cake in a mud kitchen

An old favourite, mud kitchens are easy to set up in your own garden with some old pots and pans. If you’re worried about using the dirt straight from your garden (we have a few cats who like to use our garden as a toilet!) you can buy a bag of soil to use instead. As well as making a mud kitchen, you could also get some old sheets or pieces of paper and use the mud to paint with.

Making 'cakes' in the mud kitchen
Making ‘cakes’ in the mud kitchen
Pots and pans in a mud kitchen
It would be easy to set up your own mud kitchen in your garden

Print with plants

The natural dyes in plants are perfect for creating art. Start by collecting leaves and flowers when out on a walk or from your garden. Once home, get a piece of cloth and lay down what you’ve collected on one half of the material. Fold the material in half and using a large stone or heavy object, bang the folded material so you can see the dye from the plants bleed out. Once you’ve put pressure all over the folded material, unfold it and remove the plants. You’ll be left with a beautiful, symmetrical pattern.

You can create beautiful prints using the natural dyes in flowers and leaves
You can create beautiful prints using the natural dyes in flowers and leaves

Play with tools

Before the forest school session, I wouldn’t have let Charlie near tools – let alone actively encourage him to play with them! But they had an area with hammers, mallets and nails for the children to try out. To my surprise, he was actually really careful using them. It was great to see his concentration as he challenged himself to get the nails into the boxes and pieces of wood. One of the teachers leading the session also let him cut some sticks which were being used to make a gate. He was very proud of himself for being able to do this!

Such concentration!
Being allowed to play with the big tools

Have you been  to a forest school? I’d love to hear about your experience – tweet me!

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Outdoor play ideas for children inspired by forest school. Read here for some easy-to-do activities to try at home.

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