A full day of outdoor learning at Free Range Urban Kids Forest Nursery
A couple of weeks ago, we had the pleasure to visit a fantastic Forest Kindergarten, Free Range Urban Kids
in Hackney, North East London and to meet its lovely co-founder, Hayley Mitchell. Hayley is a mother of two living in Hackney and as a firm believer in the benefits of outdoor education, she wanted to send her son to a forest school. As there wasn’t one in Hackney, Hayley decided to…create one! Our Muddy Team supports the idea of outdoor learning
and we’re always excited to visit brilliant forest schools! “We want children to be able to explore nature and have the space and freedom to learn and play outdoors all year round”, says Hayley. We couldn’t agree more! We believe that outdoor activities are wonderful for developing emotional skills and physical strength, teach resilience and help children to cope with everyday problems, now and in the future. We arrived at our destination at 10am and were greeted by a crowd of happy faces and muddy clothes! FRUK is an Ofsted registered Forest Kindergarten for 3 - 7-year olds founded in 2014 by Hayley Mitchell and Elizabeth Hassay. It’s located in South Millfields Park in Hackney, London. FRUK follows the EYFS – Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum which means that all the seven areas of learning are covered. Children are encouraged to follow their interests and allowed to play and explore the world as they please, but they are watched and supported at every step of the way.
Children have freedom to learn and play outdoors all year round, whatever the weather. If it gets too cold, outdoor lessons are swapped for a trip to a museum or a library. There is no building as such, but children can take shelter in a tent or under a huge parachute which covers the area in case of a heavy rain. Organic, healthy, seasonal snacks such as nuts, veggies, fruit and peanut butter are served to keep the little ones going. FRUK, just like Muddy Puddles, greatly support gender neutral upbringing and firmly believes that both girls and boys should run around, climb trees and enjoy messy, wild play! That’s why children work with both male and female practitioners and there is no difference made between activities for girls and boys. A balance between the number of boys and girls is also a priority. Each child has an assigned key worker, a “buddy” who is always there to help. As the team is small, everyone is up to date with everything that’s going on. A typical day at Free Range Urban Kids Forest Kindergarten starts at 9.30am and ends at 3.30pm. Hayley and her team arrive early to make sure everything is ready. Children need to attend FRUK for a minimum of 2 full days per week. Highly-skilled teachers with Forest School qualifications welcome the children in the morning and let them play on their own for the first 30 minutes. Then children gather around the teacher for a morning circle session and talk about nature, animals, trees (isn’t “The tree of the week” a brilliant idea?!). The FRUK team choose weekly themes for all areas of learning which means children constantly learn something new and are never bored! Children are kept busy – day-to-day activities include identification of fauna and flora, den and shelter building, fire lighting, cooperative games and many more. There is 1 staff member to every 5 children which means no one feels left out. After running around, climbing trees, playing in the mud kitchen or painting outdoors, it’s time for lunch. Children bring their own packed lunches from home. But first, a proper hand washing is required! It’s simple and fun at FRUK – a bucket, a sponge, some water and little hands are ready for eating or for more muddy play later!
Children who still need to take a nap during the day can sleep in a comfy pop-up tents or hammocks. Appropriate clothing is necessary to make sure little ones keep warm and dry throughout the day – wellies
, warm jackets
and base layers
are highly recommended. The day ends at 3.30pm and after a day filled with exciting outdoor activities and learning, it’s time to go home. The business is growing, and Hayley and Lizzie have lots of brilliant plans and ideas. Fingers crossed! Leave us a comment below if you like the idea of Forest Schools!