Forest School

What is Forest School?

Forest School, is an outdoor education delivery model in which individuals spend time in natural spaces to learn different skills. It has been defined in Liz O’Brien and Richard Murray’s research as “an inspirational process that offers children, young people and adults regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence through hands-on learning in a woodland environment”.

Following success in the US, Sweden and Denmark, it has become extremely popular in the UK since the 90s. Many schools and other settings have established long term programmes with accredited training courses. Others have been solely setup as dedicated forest schools. The philosophy of Forest School embraces children’s natural curiosity, inspired imagination and promoted learning.

Formed in 2012 as “the professional body and UK wide voice for Forest School”, the Forest School Association (FSA) promote best practice, cohesion and “quality Forest School for all”. As a result, hey have helped over 10,000 educationalists undertake training to provide Forest School within their establishments. This includes nurseries, preschools and primary schools. This community is key as the demand for provision is rising and the quality of outdoor learning is growing.

Impact in the Early Years

Forest School promotes all aspects of children’s early years development. Forest School may have added benefits that learning indoors doesn’t provide. It endorses children’s physical well being by getting them more active and enjoying the fresh air. Similarly it gives children a greater wealth of experiences the outdoors can offer, thus instilling a healthier lifestyle.

Dr Janine Coates of the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences and Dr Helena Pimlott-Wilson of the Department of Geography at Loughborough conducted preliminary research in 2017 within primary schools, including one early years foundation class (4-5 years). Their findings show that there is a clear impact of Forest School. Encouraging children to work with others in more challenging outdoor activities improves their social relationships. Secondly, this way of learning within early years appears to provide children with hands-on skills and an appreciation for the outdoors. Certainly a stark contrast to the ever-growing digital age where children are thought to spend less time in their outdoor environment.

Getting children outdoors is a great way of taking children and learning out of the classroom. In addition, it adds something a little different to the day-to-day schedule. Likewise, it gives children greater understanding and experience whilst helping all areas of their development in a different, stimulating way.

How can LearningBook help?

LearningBook allows customers to create and complete observations of children’s activities even if the safeguarding-aware tablets are offline and not connected to WiFi. For instance, it means settings who have poor internet connection and attend take part in outdoor sessions will still be able to record children’s development. Find out more features that can support your outdoor learning, here.

Bonfire Night

Bonfire Night is a great time to celebrate a tradition in the UK and enjoy a firework and bonfire display in your local area. It is something that is celebrated by all ages and by lots of families at the beginning of November. Bonfire Night, or Guy Fawkes Night as it’s also known, is a perfect opportunity to create exciting activities in your early years setting and get children expressing themselves through bright colours and fun activities. It’s also a great time to teach children how to keep themselves safe if they attend an event.

There are lots of activities on the internet but to give you a helping hand we’ve created this blog of our top Bonfire Night EYFS activities to get your children in the mood for Guy Fawkes Night, as well as some helpful tips from firework and bonfire safety websites.

Bonfire Night – EYFS Activities

1. Simple Mark Making

Mark making activities can be adapted for all age groups from babies to preschool.

You can ask children to use different material to make bright fireworks and bonfires. Younger children could use cotton buds or their little finger on chalk boards and copy firework style shapes and patterns. Or children can use their imaginations to make their own shapes and swirls with pencils, felt-tips, glitter pens or paint!

[Physical Development – Moving & Handling; Mathematics – Shape, space and measure; Expressive Arts and Design – Exploring and using media and materials & Being imaginative]

2. Fireworks in a Jar

This activity combines bonfire night, fireworks and science. Fill jars with water and set them out on an activity table. Mix together each food colouring colour with oil and use pipettes or pour the mixtures into the jar and watch the fireworks come to life!

Make sure you don’t miss the step where you mix oil to food colouring as this will make sure most of the colouring floats.

[Understanding the World- The World; Expressive Arts & Design – Exploring and using media & materials, Being imaginative]

3. Painting with Straws

Another great way to create fireworks in your setting is painting with straws!

Gather together some straws, at least one per child, as well as black card or paper and some bright coloured paint. Add some water to the paint so they become a little runnier and drop enough paint on the paper to create a small puddle. Then get your children to take their straw and blow through it to spread the puddle you made.

This may take a little practice, so you could always let the children have a few practice goes on scrap paper or newspaper.

Don’t forget to use lots of different colours to brighten up your night sky! This activity is perfect for toddlers and older children too.

[Physical Development – Moving & Handling; Expressive Arts & Design – Exploring and using media & materials, Being imaginative]

4. Bonfire Night Sky

A great way to get all children involved and celebrate their beautiful artwork is to create a bonfire night sky display board with a fun and messy twist.

Tape together lots of black card or paper, or use individual pieces, and pour the paints into trays and give the children paint brushes. Dip the brush into the paint and flick the paint onto the black paper. This is the messy bit so make sure you put some newspaper or covering down! Flick a range of colours onto the paper to create a bright picture.

You can add painting and other activities you’ve done to the board too!

[Physical Development – Moving & Handling; Expressive Arts & Design – Exploring and using media & materials, Being imaginative]

Safety

Of course Bonfire Night EYFS Activities are a great way for ealry years children to get involved in the festivities. However, wn important part of any firework celebrations, such as bonfire night, is the prevention of accidents. Fireworks and bonfires can be great fun but it is important to remember and pass on safety tips to parents, families and begin teaching children how to stay safe from an early age.

Here are a number of important tips to remember:

  • Make sure you plan your firework display to make it safe and enjoyable;
  • Read and follow the instructions on each firework packaging prior to the evening or use a torch if necessary;
  • Light the fireworks at arm’s length and have others stand well back;
  • Never return to a firework once it has been lit even if it fails to go off;
  • Direct fireworks away from spectators;
  • It is recommended that sparklers are not given to children under-5 years of age;
  • Make sure everyone handling sparklers wears gloves;
  • Never hold a baby in your arms while you are holding a sparkler;
  • When using sparklers avoid wearing loose clothing and tie back long hair.

Check out these websites for more information:

Royal Society of the Prevention of Accidents 

Fire Service

BBC Newsround 

Halloween EYFS Activites

Halloween is a great opportunity to celebrate the arrival of Autumn and gives you the opportunity to involve lots of Halloween EYFS activities in your setting throughout the week building up to children trick or treating.

There are lots of activities out there on the internet but to give you a helping hand our team at LearningBook have compiled our favourite Halloween EYFS activities to get your children in the mood for Halloween, whilst also incorporating meaningful areas of the curriculum of course.

1. Halloween Sensory Bin

Instead of the usual Halloween craft, why not try a sensory bin?

This is great sensory activity and keeps children engaged. Simply fill a tub or tray with your favourite materials, this can be water beads (to give that slightly slimey addition) or even black dried beans or dyed rice. Then on top of this include some creepy crawlies and other Halloween themed smaller pieces. To add additional elements to the activity, ask the children to describe what they’re feeling to encourage them to explore their senses.

You can also ask the children to name the different pieced they find from the bin and even group them based on colour or size.

[Expressive Arts and Design – Exploring and using media and materials; Mathematics – Shape, space and measure and Numbers]

2. Monster/Pumpkin Slime

This activity is perfect for encouraging young children and babies to experience new senses; an added bonus is that it’s edible!

Using melted marshmallows, cornflower, water and food colouring (we recommend green, orange, purple and black) to make the slime, ask children to pull and push the slime to work those little muscles.

[Physical Development – Moving and Handling; Expressive Arts and Design – Exploring and using media and materials]

3. Ice Cube Play

This one takes some pre-prep! Fill ice cube trays with water and pop in a spider, bugs or other Halloween themed pieced. Be aware that this activity is suitable for children over two years as the bugs can be very small!

Once the ice cubes are frozen place them on tray or onto the table for the children to play with. As the cubes melt the children can play with the bugs hidden inside.

Encourage the children to talk about what appears once the ice has melted or, if the children are capable, ask them to sort the small pieces in to different types, colours or count them.

[Expressive Arts and Design – Exploring and using media and materials; Mathematics – Shape, space and measure and Numbers; Communication and Language – Speaking]

4. Spooky Stories

A simple but effective activity is reading. There’s plenty of Halloween themed books that you can read to your children or ask them to try and read.

A classic, and no doubt somewhere on your book shelf, is “Room on a Broom” by Julia Donaldson. The story of a witch, a group of animals who help her, good manners, friendship and cooperation is fun to read aloud because of its rhythm and rhyme.

[Literacy – Reading; Communication and Language – Listening, Speaking]

5. Spider Hand Prints

Spider hand prints are great start to begin decorating your room ready for Halloween. It’s quite simple, requires few resources and can be done with children of any age.

Firstly, help paint the children’s hands with the black paint and press onto the paper. Once the handprints have dried cut them out and have the children glue on two googly eyes in the centre. You can use these on display boards or attach them to some string and hang from the ceiling.

[Expressive Arts and Design – Exploring and using media and materials & Begin imaginative]

6. Visit to a Pumpkin Patch

At Halloween nothing can beat visiting a pumpkin patch or going out to buy your pumpkins ready to decorate the setting.

Gather the children together and visit your local farm who you know grow pumpkins and pick some out. This visit will allow the children to experience a day out of the nursery or preschool and gives them some independence in choosing their favourite pumpkin to take away.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a pumpkin patch near by just pop down to your local supermarket to pick out a pumpkin or two!

[Understanding the World – The world & People and communities]

Don’t forget to search for more Halloween EYFS activities on the internet and on social media, including: