We run two weekly groups for toddlers and pre-schoolers and their parents/carers; one at Rock Edge in Headington and one at Headington Quarry Foundation Stage School’s site in Headington Quarry. These need to be booked in advance. We also run various weekly sessions for schools in the area, but these are not open to the public. If you have a perfect site or a group of children who would love Forest School sessions, please get in touch if you need a leader!
Our toddler groups aim to get children accustomed to spending time outdoors from an early age. Often the children are unsure for the first couple of times they come and look to their grown-up for direction but after a few sessions they become familiar with the surroundings and begin to explore and engage fully. The aim of regular sessions is to develop children’s imagination so that they learn to play creatively with the rich environment available in the woodland. Being surrounded by nature teaches children to respect living things, physical play like balancing on logs helps their gross motor skills, the rope swing and hammock develops their vestibular senses, building dens together develops teamwork, social skills and communication. Activities like creating journey sticks or making elder beads are great for fine motor development, and the mud kitchen is excellent for developing tactile senses, strengthening the immune system, socialising, communicating and real-world role playing.
Some weeks we may come with activities and some weeks we may not. The children don’t have to take part in activities at all if they don’t want to – we firmly believe that children learn what they need to learn through play so they are free to explore the woodland at their own pace. We will almost always have a fire and make stick bread (damper bread) over the fire, sometimes we may make popcorn or soup or cook food using something we’ve foraged from the site (elderflower cordial or blackberry jam for example). We will offer a drink for the kids and cups of tea and coffee for grown-ups.
It is a social session for the adults as much as for the kids and our adults often get fully involved in the sessions (that’s how my Forest School journey started!) and many make good friends with like-minded people.