At Muddy Puddles, we are firm believers in the benefits of Forest Schools. Learning outdoors boosts children’s confidence, develops their social and physical skills and, last but not least, improves their concentration and motivation.We have been asking the leaders of Forest Schools we admire including Little Forest Folk, The Woodland Nursery, Go Wild Education to give their tips on how to manage a Forest School in the chilly weather. Here is what they said: 1) Keep them warm Tracy from The Woodland Nursery "Good quality base layers, thermals and waterproof gloves are the key ingredients! Cold fingers equal no fun. As long as the children are dressed appropriately, there is no reason for them to get cold. Our main aim is not to allow them to get cold and then try to warm them up, but rather not let them get cold in the first place and that's where appropriate clothing is essential. Also, in the colder months we ensure we do lots of physical activities where the children are kept moving as often as possible throughout the course of the day which helps to keep their core body temperature up to ensure the cold weather does not become an issue. Whilst sometimes a bit miserable for parents, icy and snowy conditions provide some of the most exciting environments for children to have fun in so it would be a shame if they weren't able to enjoy it because they weren't dressed appropriately." 2) Don’t forget about layers Lisa from Little Forest Folk “Layers, layers and more layers. Don’t forget to take lots of spare gloves... The ice and snow provide a wonder of learning opportunities for children to experience the feel of ice, what happens when things freeze and what happens when ice melts but keeping hands warm in between touching is essential.”
3) Create warmth and know when to stop Jackie from Go Wild Education Redirect excited behaviour Even adults get excited about snow so asking children of any age to be sensible on the rare occasion we experience it is likely to be a losing battle. They key here is to think about ways for you to all get what you want. For example, throwing snowballs at a target is safer than throwing them at people. Embrace what you’ve got We’re all used to slipping and sliding in mud and so ice may not be the challenge we think it is. Talk to your groups about what to expect and ways of moving across icy areas. I’ve you’ve ever indulged in mud slides then you may well be able to have a snow slide. On the plus side, once mud freezes it becomes easier to walk on and it’s likely that your forest school site is easier to navigate as a result. Find ways to create warmth Get the fire on, have hot drinks and full tummies and keep them moving. But what do you do if one of your group really starts to feel the cold? If they’re wearing wellies then a bucket of hot water (regularly topped up with water from the kettle or a thermos) can be really handy for frozen feet. Simply stand them, wellies and all, in the bucket and let the warm water do its job. I used to have a collection of round pebbles that we would keep in a pan of warm water by the fire that we used as hand warmers on cold days. Know when to call it quits We all know that forest school takes place in all seasons and all weathers, but this should come with a caveat: until it stops being fun. If the majority of your group is unhappy then there is no point in carrying on for the sake of it. And remember, the younger your group is, the closer they are to the cold ground and the less likely they are to be able to tell you they’re feeling cold.
4) Try campfire cooking and cocoon yourself like a caterpillar! Lisa from Wheatfen Forest School
5) Enjoy the weather! Steve from Into The Woods outdoor nursery Have fun! Make the most of the extreme cold and the beauty of ice by making tree decorations. Fill a jam jar lid (or similar shallow container) with water, then add leaves, twigs, feathers, whatever you find in the woods, and the end of piece of string. Leave it overnight and by the morning the water will have frozen and you’ll have a lovely icy decoration that you can attach to a tree using the string. We’d love to hear your tips on how to deal with the icy weather at the Forest School and keep children focused and happy!