An Introduction To Forest School

An Introduction To Forest School

When you become a parent for the first time it’s hard not to jump ahead and plan out exactly what type of parent you want to be, and exactly how you want to bring your child up. Our love of the outdoors is no secret and of course we want to share this with Finn. This is one reason why I ended up reading about Forest School. It seemed like the perfect way to teach him some important life skills, while allowing him lots of quality time outside.

So what is Forest School? In simple terms its learner-centered approach, with children making their own decisions,  offers everyone an opportunity “to achieve and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland or natural environment with trees” (Source). It is also a holistic approach, designed to build on and complement experiences at home and school.

A couple of weeks a go I was lucky enough to go and meet Susan Collini, a level 3 qualified Forest School leader at a wood in Northamptonshire to find out more.


Finn exploring some fungi (with supervision!)

It was great to explore the woods and talk through the principles of Forest School. The first principle, and something that resonated with me, is that it is not just a one off event, but a longer process. It really isn’t just a case of spending the day outside, building dens and making fires, and then posting the pictures on instagram for everyone to marvel at. As Susan says, “Forest School should be… a minimum of 6 weekly sessions for participants to benefit from what is a process during which individuals can experience personal growth in a range of physical, emotional and social skills”.


Forest School features a range of activities designed to teach important life skills

Further principles include the fact that a woodland, or wooded area, provides the best environment to support the aims of Forest School. It is a perfect setting to support learners and enable them to take risks while being fully supported. This aspect is something that I find very interesting. There are numerous sources highlighting the fact that children today are not allowed to take risks, this is something that has far reaching consequences for their mental and physical well being. It is something that I find difficult to balance in everyday life. I want Finn to be confident and able to trust his own judgement and make good decisions, yet giving him this freedom can be difficult. I will even admit that a lot of the time I try and do what looks like the right thing to other people. This is one reason I love spending time with him outdoors, where he can have more freedom to explore and take more risks.


Woodland is the ideal place to achieve the aims of Forest School

It is also important that, in order to get the full benefit from the experience, sessions are run by qualified practitioners. I was surprised to learn that anyone can set up an outdoor learning environment and call it ‘forest school’. It really is worth taking the time to look up FSA accredited leaders.

If you would like to find out more, or would like your children to benefit from Forest School, Susan’s site, Outdoor Tribe, contains a wealth of knowledge. I have tried to give an overview here, but there is so much information to get across. I really recommend reading the pages I have linked to in order to get a more comprehensive understanding.

I hope to explore this fascinating topic further in the future, so look out for updates.

All photos courtesy of Susan Collini.

Chasing Esme
Monkey and Mouse



  • Ashley Beolens Ashley Beolens November 01, at 17:04

    I think forest school is such a great thing, and proven to increase kids ability to learn as well 🙂


    • TheHelpfulHiker TheHelpfulHiker November 01, at 19:26

      Definitely! I can’t wait until Finn is a bit older, I really think it’ll benefit him no end.

  • Kirsty Kirsty November 01, at 19:24

    I wish I’d known more about forest schools when my kids were much younger – I think they’d have loved it. We did get chance when they were preteens though and they loved it then too – such a great idea!

  • Emma - Hip2trek Emma - Hip2trek November 02, at 09:36

    I think the concept is really interesting so look forward to your updates about it. I’m really surprised too that anyone can set up an outdoor learning environment and call it a ‘forest school’, so good tip about looking for an accredited leader. #whatevertheweather

    • TheHelpfulHiker TheHelpfulHiker November 03, at 20:35

      I can’t wait until Finn is old enough to get involved properly, such a great concept. But unfortunately lots of people are jumping on the bandwagon so worth checking.

  • I totally love the whole concept of forest school. We’ve learnt so much ourselves from just being in the woods and teaching the children skills. I almost think this would be our perfect job! Sarah #whatevertheweather

    • TheHelpfulHiker TheHelpfulHiker November 03, at 20:36

      It would be an amazing job! I love how much Finn grows in confidence just from being outside, it’s a great concept.

  • I really like the idea of Forest Schools and think our boys would gain so much from it. Very interesting to read about #whatevertheweather

    • TheHelpfulHiker TheHelpfulHiker November 05, at 07:43

      It’s such a great concept, I can’t wait until Finn is a bit older and can get the full benefit from it.

  • Caroline (Becoming a SAHM) Caroline (Becoming a SAHM) November 04, at 07:16

    Forest school does sound like a great thing and I’m hearing more about them at the moment!

    • TheHelpfulHiker TheHelpfulHiker November 05, at 07:44

      It’s a fab idea and has so many benefits. I’m hoping to write more about this in the future.

  • I havent heard of this before and looks like an amazing way for kids to learn. I think we need more knowloedge and exporesure to the outdoors for us to raise kids who are aware of whats going on with the environment. Lovely read! #whatevertheweather

  • The Queen of Collage The Queen of Collage November 04, at 21:56

    We’ve tried out a Forest School near us and thoroughly enjoyed it. I didn’t realise that not all forest schools are accredited. #Whatevertheweather

    • TheHelpfulHiker TheHelpfulHiker November 05, at 07:49

      It’s such a good idea, I can’t wait to get involved when Finn is a bit older.

  • Tamsin Mathias Tamsin Mathias November 06, at 10:28

    I’d never actually heard of a Forest School before! Sounds so good! I totally agree – children aren’t allowed to take risks, and being outdoors can allow them to explore and test themselves.
    Esme is a bit too small to get involved and understand just yet, but when she is older this will definitely be something we’ll look into!

  • Kelly Robinson Kelly Robinson November 06, at 11:47

    I would love to take part in a forest schools course. We don’t have much of that where I am so it would be wonderful to get a group going! Especially as I live in the welsh valleys which is full of beautiful outdoor spaces especially pine woods! Great post, very informative. Thank you for joining up with #ChasingNature

  • Jenny Eaves Jenny Eaves November 06, at 22:18

    Forest school is a great concept, we have done a few forest school courses with the kids and they have been amazing. We often go to a woodland group with our other home ed friends, but it’s more of letting the kids discover the woods on their own and learn to light the fire and cook on it safely. Thanks for linking up to #Whatevertheweather 🙂 x

  • November 15, at 14:14

    We love forest school! Unfortunately, there isn’t one anywhere near where we live. Some local mom’s and I have started our own forest homeschool, and it has been so beneficial to both my son and I. I look forward to hearing about your experiences.

    • TheHelpfulHiker TheHelpfulHiker November 16, at 18:33

      I can’t wait to try some more sessions, such an interesting idea. I’m glad to have found your blog, have enjoyed reading through it 🙂

  • Mrs H Mrs H January 29, at 09:31

    Forest school is brilliant. Little Miss H has a session each week at her pre school and she loves it. She has so much fun and her favourite activity is looking for bugs with a magnifying glass. She should be able to continue with forest school once she gets in to the primary school. Which means as she gets older she will be able to take more risks and even sleep out in the forest one night. Hugs Lucy xxxx

    • The Helpful Hiker The Helpful Hiker January 29, at 19:13

      That sounds amazing, I really hope that we can give the same opportunities when he’s a bit older. It’s such a great concept and children benefit from it so much.

  • I do believe that forest school is the answer to many of the education system’s ills. It is incredible to see what happens when children (and adults!) go outside in such a meaningful way. My youngest two have been attending Ireland’s first nature kindergarten, and I’m trying to introduce forest school into their primary school now. Wish me luck!


Post Reply