Free childcare at Exeter Forest School Kindergarten

Children playing with water tunnels at forest school

You might have heard that new funding is coming in for three and four year olds from September. In addition to the 15 hours free childcare parents can claim, there are 15 hours more available for families who meet the criteria (so up to 30 hours in total). You can take a look at whether you’re eligible for the funding at, and also use the childcare calculator to see what you can claim. If you have questions, contact the Early Years Entitlement Funding Helpdesk on 01392 385530.

What a lot of families don’t realise is that you can split your allowance across different settings. So, for example, your child could attend their local pre-school but also use some or their free hours for a day at Exeter Forest School Kindergarten. Or you could share the hours with a childminder, if they accept the funding too.

Choose the hours that suit your child’s development whether that is three days a week, or just one. It can be a welcome break from the four walls of a classroom setting for adventurous pre-schoolers and a good balance for lots of families.

We’re delighted to be accepting the 30 hours funded hours at our kindergarten – whichever way you want to spend them.

Here are some of the things we believe our Forest school ethos allows children to do:

  • lead their own learning
  • have time to play, and develop their imaginations
  • problem solve, ask questions, keep trying
  • begin to manage their own risk
  • build self-esteem, friendships and independence.

At Exeter Forest School Kindergarten, the staff have witnessed the incredible benefits that the outdoors has on a child’s development. We have small group sizes to allow children’s confidence to grow, we take time to investigate the children’s questions.

We never have two days the same in the kindergarten, as our environment is always changing. Here are just a few examples of how nature inspires the children:

  • Seeing nesting birds and surrounding wildlife.
  • Witnessing dragon flies metamorphosing.
  • Experiencing the changing weather: sun, rain, wind, fog, frost, hail, rainbows, storms and ice.
  • Playing with mud. 
  • Making seasonal dishes with ingredients from our woodland, such as elderflower cordial and blackcurrant crumble.
  • Learning how to make, light and keep safe around a fire.
  • Changing plants, changing terrain, textures and smells.
  • Enjoying stream dipping and water play.
  • Going on insect hunts and identifying their finds.
  • Den building and tree climbing.

From the spring through to the summer term we have covered a range of topics from nocturnal animals, bird calls and identification, life cycles of caterpillars, insect facts, shapes, building, measuring, family, and healthy eating.

We track your child’s development through the early years foundation stage, at a pace that suits their needs. The outdoors is the perfect platform for practical application for their learning. For example, we can use nature around us to improve numeracy: “Can you get me 10 sticks for the fire. I need 5 small thin ones to start it, and 5 longer thicker ones for later.”

We’ve had some lovely comments about how Exeter Forest School Kindergarten is helping children grow. Here are just a few:

My son absolutely loves the kindergarten. After almost four months his confidence, problem solving and general agility has developed. Thank you so much for a truly perfect introduction to my son’s education.

My daughter attends two days a week and she has grown in confidence and loves it there. At the beginning of the day she runs down the path excited about the day ahead and at the end of the day she is beaming. This is what childhood is about.

Any child that is a bit reticent in large groups, or whose behaviour improves with a bit of time outdoors, would benefit hugely from this wonderful place! My son gained so much confidence from being trusted to do things that four year olds usually are not allowed to do, such as climbing trees, using tools and lighting fires. A truly brilliant concept and the staff are fantastic!

Exeter Forest School Kindergarten is open Mondays to Wednesdays, 9am-3pm, term-time only.
If you’d like to find out more, please get in touch to arrange a visit. We’d love to meet you and tell you more about Forest School.

Emma Sheffield, Exeter Forest School Kindergarten Manager

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