What are the key benefits of Forest Schools?
Forest Schools allows for numerous benefits for children who are still learning and growing each and every day. For a moment, think about your child and the last time they went outside. What did they play with? What did they do? When children play by themselves in the garden of their home, they can become creative and even a little mischievous; and these are good things! But there are ways to make being outside more than just fun. Being outside can be educational. It can be enthralling and awe-inspiring.
The benefits of Forest Schools are plentiful, and we’d like to point just a few of them out for anyone who might be thinking about attending a Forest School activity or workshop with their little ones.
Forest School leaders aren’t there to watch over your child every minute or constantly direct them. They aren’t lecturers, and their job is a bit different from most teachers. A Forest School leader is there to oversee the children they’re looking after and help them build on their independence by pushing them towards solutions that they figure out by themselves.
From building dens and tents of sticks to learning how to navigate with a compass and read a map, children who attend Forest School workshops pick up skills that are fun but vital. On a level, some of the skills may seem survivalist, but they’re actually helping children become more creative and building their independence by allowing them time to come up with their own solutions.
Children can feel like they have more power over themselves and their lives when they’re given the chance to learn about the natural world and its workings.
Empathy plays a huge part in the world. Children are extremely empathetic; they feel things deeply, and they feel often. A child is more likely to cry when they’re sad and smile when they’re happy than try to keep any of their feelings locked away. Forest Schools encourage children to feel their emotions and to understand how they feel when they observe something.
Forest School workshops ensure that children work in groups and understand the values and necessities of teamwork. Natural settings help people bond more easily; taking away the competition of the classroom and introducing the concept of caring for each other and the world around them.
Possibly one of the most obvious benefits is how much physical activity and exercise children do during Forest Schools. They run, they climb, they leap over logs. It’s more than a P.E. class, it’s fun and fitness in a way that children don’t often experience.
Better mental health
It may seem strange to talk about mental health in children, but the matter of the fact is: Children are more susceptible to stress and negative emotions. Today’s children are under much more pressure than past years. They have more homework, more exams, and everything is much more difficult than it was ten years ago.
There are a huge number of studies that link being outside in nature with better mental health. Not only better mental health, but better physical health, too! Exercise factors in, and so does natural sunlight.
Despite being in the “wild”, all Forest School adventures are fully controlled and safe. Forest School leaders encourage children to assess risks and to seek out help if they feel they need it. Unpredictable situations will always exist, but they have adult help to understand how best to deal with that situation and come up with a solution.
Eventually, they won’t need assistance. The solutions will come as naturally as teamwork, planning, and creativity. Children learn through understanding their mistakes and how to fix them. The abilities they gain during Forest School activities will be invaluable.
Last on our list of benefits is communication. Not only do Forest School activities promote teamwork, they also promote communication. Without communication, tasks can easily fail or not be properly completed. No child gets left out of their team because all of them know they need to work together to complete the activity they’ve been set to do.
Children become enthusiastic about playtime and being outdoors. Forest Schools are no different. A new environment is always exciting! They’ll listen because they’re unsure at first, but they’ll learn because they’re interested and they find it fun.
All in all, Forest Schools have many benefits. These are just some of the basic ones, but there’s a lot more information and relevant research out there.