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Forest School

At Dorking Nursery School we have a piece of land which we have transformed into a woodland area where children can play and learn in natural surroundings. The children in our 2-3s nursery use this woodland for activities and we plan to extend this to other groups. In the 3-5s Nursery all the children have the opportunity to participate in Forest School sessions led by staff who are trained Forest School leaders.

History of Forest Schools

The Forest School way of working with children was developed in Scandinavia in the 1950’s and builds on a tradition of being close to nature. In 1994 the Early Years Department of Bridgwater College in Somerset visited Denmark to see the way young people used the outdoors. They saw children cooking on open fires, listening to stories, singing songs and exploring the outdoor space at their own level. They were able to walk, run, balance and scramble all in a natural environment. The children learnt about their environment and how to look after it through play, as well as how to respect each other’s space. The students came back inspired & began to develop Forest Schools here in a way that suited our culture and so the English Forest Schools began.

Why is Forest School important?

Today it is widely acknowledged that most children do not spend enough time outdoors. Forest School introduces them to the fun of being outside and encourages, amongst other things, an enjoyment of getting dirty, climbing trees and caring and learning about themselves and their environment.

Children benefit from being involved in regular visits to the woodland giving them time to gain in confidence and build on previous achievements.

The Forest School is made as safe as possible to facilitate children’s risk taking and ability to judge risk for themselves.

Small achievable tasks enable children to gain satisfaction and grow in self-esteem.

By the use of careful observation and assessment staff are able to plan effectively for the next session.

Children are encouraged to reflect and revisit activities, and transfer skills they have learnt to other areas of their life.

Forest School and the Early Years Foundation Stage

Forest Schools are child-centred and do cover many areas of learning in the Early Years Foundation Stage.

Personal, Social and Emotional Development

  • Building self esteem & confidence in new situations
  • Show respect & care for other living things
  • Work co-operatively with others
  • Having an awareness of health & safety issues
  • Enjoy sharing new experiences with peers & adults e.g. snack time

Physical Development

  • Lots of opportunity for balancing, climbing, negotiating different terrain in a natural environment.
  • Constructing with natural materials

Communication and Language

  • Learning new vocabulary
  • Sharing new ideas, reflecting
  • Listening to instructions


  • Sharing stories, songs & rhymes
  • Mark making using natural materials e.g. a stick in mud, a finger in the frost


  • Using natural materials for counting
  • Sorting natural materials e.g. for creative activities
  • Measuring e.g. length of poles for den building
  • Problem solving. Children show a higher degree of interest & ability in solving real problems e.g. how can we    move that heavy log.
  • Pattern making using natural materials.

Understanding of the World

  • Investigating & being curious about the flora & fauna in the woodland garden.
  • Constructing with a real purpose e.g. mini beast homes
  • Experiencing all types of weather
  • Using all their senses in a different environment.

Expressive Arts and Design

  • Sharing songs & rhymes in an outdoor environment
  • Creating music
  • Using natural materials for modelling, picture making.
  • Role play


The children will be outside in all weathers for the whole session. The children need to wear old clothes and know that they can get dirty!

In all seasons children will need:

  • Long sleeved shirts
  • Long trousers
  • Sturdy shoes or wellies. They will also need shoes to change into once back in Nursery.

In cold weather it is very important children are dressed warmly as they are unable to enjoy the woodland area if cold and uncomfortable. Warm socks and tights under trousers are a good idea for girls and boys.

The Nursery has a supply of waterproof dungarees & coats that can be borrowed to go over children’s own coats. We also have a stock of hats. In hot weather please ensure the children have sun cream applied before they come to Nursery.

As a family why not try to make time to:

  • Go for a walk in the countryside
  • Chat about animals, birds & plants you see
  • Play a game in the garden/park
  • Fly a kite
  • Climb a tree

Useful Links

Woodland Trust Nature Detectives