Here at The Outdoors Group, we’re open all year round and welcome children through our (metaphorical) doors, come rain, shine, heatwave or cold snap. And whilst there are a lot of obvious benefits to Forest School during the warmer months, it has to be said that some of the most special moments occur on the colder, darker days of the year when the forest is quiet and we’re all moving that much slower.
As the temperature drops into single figures, there is something particularly beautiful about frozen cobwebs, the intricate patterns of ice on plants and in puddles and something particularly satisfying about the crunch of frosty leaves underfoot. These bone chilling days also present the perfect opportunity to get creative when it comes to campfire cooking with hearty winter stews (often made with local organic veg from Shillingford), delicious dutch oven chocolate cakes and even the occasional hearty fry up, concocted to warm up cold bodies. Our resident robins often observe the proceedings from a safe distance and the sight of them always elicits joy in the kids who associate their familiar red breasts with Christmas.
We’d be doing our kids a disservice to only allow them access to the wild for half of the year when it’s easy to get out. Being in touch with nature and the seasons is so important for a generation growing up in our ultra digitised, screen based world. By being outdoors all year round, they can fully benefit from the effects of playing and being outside. An article in the Guardian explains that ‘literally dozens of studies from around the world show regular time outdoors produces signficiant improvements in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, learning ability, creativity and mental, psychological and emotional wellbeing’ (1). They list the benefits of spending time outside as helping to battle the obesity epidemic, helping to reduce the signs of anxiety in children, improving children’s problem-solving and cooperation skills and generally increasing their happiness.
It might seem like antiquated knowledge but in a day and age where a recent survey found that 74% of children in Britain spent less time outdoors every day than adult prisoners (2), there are so many amazing skills that we can teach our kids while they spend time outdoors. From learning which plants flower and fruit at what times in the year, how to observe the first signs of Spring, what dangers our natural habitats and native animals face and how to help protect them to teaching them how to safely build fires, dens and use tools, there is a vertiable plethora of important knowledge we can impart.
Of course, there are things that you need to do to enable outdoor play all year round and the key, as Wainwright said, is good clothing! When sending your kids to Forest School or to play outdoors in the winter, make sure they’re wearing warm clothes (preferably not jeans), waterproof trousers and a coat and wellies with thick socks. For our part, we make sure that we keep the kids moving to keep their circulation going, we warm up regularly by the fire (sometimes with a hot chocolate) and we do have a classroom to retire to with a log burner if we need a little more heat before venturing back outside.
So don’t let the weather put you off coming to Forest School this winter. We still have a few spaces left for our January term of Toddler Clubs at all three sites and are running parties and Home Education groups all year round. And if you’ve got family asking for present ideas this Christmas, why not ask for a gift of time in the woods instead of toys they neither want or need? Get your thermals on and your best woolly hats (bonus points for novelty ones!) and we hope to see lots of you around the campfire in the New Year.
Looking for a unique gift?
Give us a call on 07716 002516 or email [email protected] and we can organise a voucher for you to give to friends or family, which they can use to sign up to forest school activities.