Nursery’s new forest school a breath of fresh air for children

Watchlytes Forest School

Nursery and reception children at Watchlytes have been loving their new forest school sessions. - Credit: Natasha Boydell

A Welwyn Garden City primary has launched a new forest school to help build children’s confidence and resilience following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nursery and reception children at Watchlytes Primary School now have regular outdoor classes, with sessions including exciting activities like climbing, crafts, using wood tools and making dens.

The school has dedicated outdoor areas and two qualified forest school leaders, and feedback from pupils and parents has been very positive.

“I love everything about Forest School,” said five-year-old Ava Rose.

“We do painting, climbing, making flags and medals. I can’t wait to go to school in the morning and it’s my favourite part of the day.”

Watchlytes Forest School

Forest schools came to the UK in the 1990s after starting in Scandinavia in the 50s. - Credit: Natasha Boydell

“I love forest school. We do so many different things, but my favourite is the climbing. We also learned how to make a fire and toasted marshmallows, which was so much fun,” added Azlan, also five.

Originating in Scandinavia in the 1950s, forest school came to the UK in 1990s and have become increasingly popular since, helping children develop motor skills, resilience and become self-sufficient, Kirstie Viner, early years leader at Watchlytes, has already noticed.

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“The children absolutely love their new forest school and we’ve already seen a huge transformation in their confidence, resilience, cooperation, and willingness to try new activities,” she said.

“This particularly benefits children who are struggling with their mental health after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“One parent told us that it’s been a game-changer for her daughter. They live in a flat with no outside space and since she’s been attending forest school, she has thrived. Now she hops to school with excitement every day.”

Watchlytes Forest School

Teachers have already noticed children developing since the introduction of forest school. - Credit: Natasha Boydell

Forest school leader Sophie Howard is amazed at how quickly some children have come out of their shells, adding: “The shy children, who aren’t usually the most bold or adventurous, suddenly developed these huge voices and they take their new confidence with them back into the classroom after the sessions.

“We’ve seen them develop stronger friendships and become more resilient. When children find an activity hard at first, they learn to keep trying and this gives them a huge sense of satisfaction when they succeed.”