If you read my blog regularly or follow my Instagram you'll know we love spending time amongst nature but I've only came across the Forest School principle recently. I was asked to review the Saplings classes and thought it would be a lovely chance to experience something different. I've been to so many baby and toddler classes since having my little one but none have been only outside. In an age where kids spend so much time indoors, something I try to resist, it's great to see new classes like this in our area. The Outdoors Project states "With long-term, regular access to nature and the outdoors, it has been proven that children are happier, less likely to be off sick, develop better levels of concentration, are less stressed and irritable, more respectful and have a high capacity to work in groups."
Our classes have been led by Katie Scanian. Each session runs for over an hour and is different and varied every week. The class consists of several structured activities including singing (hello and goodbye song), story time, a hands-on activity involving finding natural materials in the park and using them to create the given task and a game of 'What's the time Mr Wolf'. We have made nests for the animals using objects we found in the park, held a teddy bear's picnic, searched for ladybirds and beetles with magnifying glasses and found the natural habitats for the characters in the Gruffalo book.
|Katie reading the ladybird book|
Our latest session included Katie reading us the book, The Disgusting Sandwich, a story about a badger and other animals trying to eat a sandwich which suffers various accidents and becomes inedible hence the title. All the children were fixated on the book especially as Katie has brought along soft toy animals to accompany the story. Our task was to find materials in the park and make our own 'disgusting sandwich'. So, each child was given a pot and we walked around the park in our group finding leaves, feathers, nuts, twigs and anything else little hands can find. The little ones were also given a pot to collect some mud that was used for the sandwich filling! It's lovely to see the children amongst nature, making discoveries, talking to each other and being so enthusiastic about their little task. My little two year old now says 'Look what I have found!' to Katie and the other kids in the group. The setting in St Ann's Well, where our classes are held is beautiful and I've discovered many new areas of the park I didn't know existed! It's nice finding things purely amongst nature and although we're out all of the time all of the activities and tasks we've done are purely unique. It's also lovely to meet other kiddies and sweet how they run around together finding little leaves and nuts and showing the other kids what they have found. There is something very refreshing and relaxing about having the class outdoors.
|Making a 'disgusting sandwich'|
Like with many things it does take children a few sessions to get used to the setting and structure of the classes and now my son gets excited when I tell him we're going to Saplings. He's also developed a strong liking for Katie and shows her everything he finds. The warmer weather has also helped enjoy our classes more and I'm looking forward to the summer term. I've really enjoyed the classes myself and know my son loves them. The ages in the group all range from 18 month - 4 years and I think my son's age (nearly three) is ideal. Classes are held across Brighton and Hove in St Ann's Well, Preston Park and Queen's Park. There is also a new saplings course in St Andrew's Park in Bristol. All courses cost £49 for 7 weeks. There are also after school and holiday clubs. See the Outdoors Project website for more information.
Many thanks to the Outdoors Project for providing us with classes for the purpose of the review. All words and opinions are my own.