Sophie goes to a forest school nursery and for us, in terms of childcare, it has been a game changer. As a working mum who needed to rely on nursery care, I found the transition from maternity leave mum, to career focused woman a difficult one but finding the right childcare for Sophie, has made the transition infinitely easier.
I looked at all of the nurseries in my local area (and beyond!) and each time I left with a sinking feeling that I simply could not leave my daughter in that place. There were many reasons for those feelings but ultimately, I’m a strong believer in listening to your gut and mine was sceaming “no way!”
Then one day a flier came through the door advertising a brand new nursery. It was a purpose built facility in the countryside, surrounded by farmland and running a forest school approach to learning and care. I just immediately had a good vibe and when I went to look round, both Sophie and I fell in love.
Since then I’ve proudly shown all my family round and I’ve not had one day where I’ve felt guilty or unsure about leaving her there. For me, that has been a revelation as I’ve always felt so much guilt about using childcare in the past.
I talk about forest school on Instagram from time to time and when I do, people always want to know more so I thought I’d write this post to answer the most commonly asked questions from my perspective.
What is the forest school approach?
An innovative approach to childcare that encourages children to learn and grow through access to nature and the outdoors. The whole ethos is nurturing and actively encourages independence and inquisitve minds.
Does this mean the children are outside all day in all weathers?
Not necessarily. The children have access to the outdoors no matter the weather with bifold doors that are open to a covered decking area and then on into the outdoors areas. The children can come and go as they please and are dressed appropriately for all weather temperatures and conditions.
Meals and naps happen outside under the covered decking areas unless the weather is very bad and then they come inside.
Aren’t they cold if they sleep outside?
No not at all. They lay down sleeping mats and each child has a warm and cosy sleeping bag.
I had my reservations about this too but once you see it for yourself you understand how warm and snug the children are. In the Nordic countries where the forest school approach originated, children and babies routinely nap outside in weather as cold a -20. It feels odd to us when we are so used to wrapping our children up (literally) but there are many health benefits to exposing them to so much fresh air, not least that they sleep beautifully!
What do you like best about the nursery?
Honestly, there is so much that I love. I love the fact that all of the toys and indoors areas are scandi-style – everythign is made from natural wood and there is none of the bright and jarring primary coloured plastics that you see in most nurseries. The colour, noise and vibrancy comes from the children and their imaginations and this is absoutely one of my favourite things. It makes total sense to provide a calm environment for the children and let them bring the colour through play and personality.
I also love the fact that Sophie is almost never ill. Usually when children start nursery, they pick up virus after virus after virus and nurseries become a breeding ground for germs. The forest school approach and the endless fresh air have been proven to reduce this absence through sickness by 40%. It is just a much healthier way of living and one the children really enjoy.
And of course I love the outdoors element. Sophie is always happiest outdoors. From the moment we come downstairs in the morning, she wants to be out in the garden exploring and so cooping her up in a classroom was just never going to work for her. She adores being outside, being empowered to learn, play and explore. They actively encourage messy play through mud, sand and water. It is a really brilliant way to play, grow and learn.
Is there anything you don’t like?
I have some reservations over the meal times. A good breakfast, lunch and dinner are provided every day and the menu is healthy, sugar free and warming. However, and I don’t know if this is just this nursery or if it is a forest school approach, there are no snacks offered at all.
I’ve asked about this and have been told it encourages the children to eat their meals properly but I do think it is something I am going to raise again as I think children need regular snacks, especially with all of the fresh air and exercise that they get. I find that Sophie is often still quite hungry when I pick her up and I need to do some more research on this point.
Other than that I can’t think of a negative and it is this peace of mind that makes being a working mum much easier right now. I’m happy knowing that she is happy and for me, that is the best thing about using a forest school. It’s just an ethos and an environment that fits so well into our family life.
I know a lot of people want to know more about this trend for forest schools so drop me questions and I’d be happy to answer them.