Start ‘Em Young: 5 Reasons To Take Toddlers Outside

With a new term of our popular Toddler Clubs starting this week, we thought we’d take a look at why getting outdoors with your kids regularly from an early age is so beneficial to them! We’ve been running sessions for toddlers in the woods for over a decade now and have seen all of these benefits first hand time and time again (and heard about them from the adults bringing them). So without further ado…

Sensory Heaven

Being outdoors is the perfect environment for a young, enquiring, developing brain. There are so many sensory opportunities for your wild thing to explore and experience. From the sounds of wind rustling in the branches and mud squelching underfoot to the smells of the forest (wet rain, pine needles, spring flowers…) or campfire cooked food to the physical sensations of mud, sticks, water, leaves, rocks… as they get the chance to use all of their senses to explore a natural wild environment around them. Our lovely Deputy Manager, Debs, spoke a little bit more about how important it is for neural pathways to develop through a variety of stimuli here and how these experiences are essential to set them up for a lifetime love of learning.

Learning Through Play

The woodlands are a powerful invitation to play, for children of all ages, but particularly toddlers. Without even adding in manmade props like mud kitchens and swings, there is so much for them to explore and play with, if given the freedom to do so. From clambering on fallen logs to collecting pine cones to making mud pies to exploring the streams and looking for bugs and beasties, if we embrace child-led play, we will see them intuitively discover and embrace different avenues of play. And as we all know, play is absolutely critical as part of the learning process but also essential for the wellbeing and happiness of children.

Fosters Guardianship

As the nation’s Granddad, David Attenborough famously said “No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced.” By exposing children to the outdoor environment from an early age and teaching them how to respect and care for that which dwells within it, we are setting them up to be champions and protectors of the natural world around them. In a time when protecting the world around us is more important than ever, this is such a powerful gift to give our young people.

Builds Resilience

We talk about this one a lot but it’s so important, that it always gets a mention from us! Spending time outdoors is a fantastic way to positively build resilience in children. Being outside in all weathers (in the right clothing) is a brilliant experience for young people as they learnt to thrive and enjoy their time outside, even if they’re in the middle of a torrential rainstorm or the icy cold is biting at their fingertips. The uneven terrain of a woodland environment means that it’s more likely that they’ll fall over or have to navigate obstacles and given the right support, this is a great learning experience as they learn to withstand these setbacks and try again.

Social Skills

Spending time at Forest School really helps with a child’s blossoming social skills as they spend time regularly with a group of their peers in the woods. Forest School sessions are often a mixed age group which is fantastic as younger kids can learn from those older than them and the older kids get the opportunity to support and encourage the younger ones. They also provide the perfect opportunity for conflict resolution and teamwork as they play with and alongside each other – we all know that toddlers playing together is not always harmonious! Supported by the adults around them, children are able to form and nurture new friendships as they share experiences outside together.

With the cost-of-living crisis and an ever growing of activities for toddlers on offer, we know that choosing where to spend your time and money can be a difficult choice. But we’d argue that joining us in the woods for a weekly dose of Forest School fun is a pretty darn good way to spend your money – you’ll make fantastic memories with your little one, meet other like-minded parents, and set your child up with a whole range of skills and experiences that will help them as they grow. However, if you can’t join us for these sessions – we’d urge you to just get outside regularly with your toddlers, to the local park, nearby woods or beach – any natural space you can access. You won’t regret it!

Author: Hannah Durdin, Content Officer & Forest School Leader

Date: Monday 15th April 2024

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