Learners are given time: time to explore and challenge themselves at their own pace. I could harp on about the benefits of Forest School for ages, BUT the good news is you can offer your child many of these things for free! So put down your phones, take a flask of hot squash and get out for a walk and explore. I strongly believe that everybody benefits from regular, long-term access to a natural environment, and this is backed up science too. Time outdoors has been shown to reduce anxiety, improve sleep and mood, and in this cold weather you can come back get snuggled and really appreciate being home, you may even be gifted with a nap – perfect!
Take them home and make a picture at home. Young children love using scissors, and letting them loose on some leaves may create a mess but they will love it! And its surprisingly mindful so get involved. Nature is perfect for open ended play – a plastic car can only be a car but a stick can be 100 things! A wand, a broom, a fishing rod, a pencil, a sword, a tool, a walking stick, a guitar, a microphone, a friend or collect a load for a fairy house. You can make some playdough for them to enhance this further, we don’t follow a recipe for this, just mix flour water and a good glug of oil. Watch and enjoy your child explore their imagination.
Take a magnifying glass so you can take a closer look at snowflakes and ice crystals, find a frozen spider web, hear the leaves crunch underfoot. If you look closely there will already be the first hints of spring – buds on trees and snow drops pushing their way through.
Using pipe cleaners and a donut shaped breakfast cereal (I was trying really hard not to say Cheerios. We use Alderios, or whatever the cheap alternative is!). Hang outside in your garden and see what birds come by for a fill.
Although the majority of plants and fungus are harmless there are some which when touched or ingested could cause harm.
Dangerous funguses include the Death cap, Deadly webcap, Funeral Bell, Destroying Angel – there are more but these definitely have the best names! Some of the most dangerous plants include Giant Hogweed, Deadly nightshade, Monkshood, Lord & Ladies and Hemlock. There are some you may have in your gardens too, such as Daffodils, Foxglove, all parts of the tomato plant except the ripe fruit for example. My point here is not to scare you, and definitely not to remove these from your garden, but to make you aware not to pick or lick things when you cant identify them. But it is also a great way to engage older children – Learn about the history of Hemlock and Socrates’ demise; Monkshood and poisonous arrows; Belladonna and a number of Roman Emperor deaths.
See if they can identify any of these plants on a walk, Hemlock is particularly abundant!