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Little Forest Folk Nursery - intrigued? Read on...

(12 Posts)
LittleForestFolk Tue 02-Dec-14 19:15:53

Little Forest Folk is London's first full time outdoor forest nursery, established by parents Leanna & James Barrett in Wimbledon following their increasing concern over the current disconnect between children and nature.

Little Forest Folk offers childcare from 8am-6pm, 51 weeks a year, with 2-5 year old children spending every day from 9.30am-4pm exploring a beautiful and fascinating forest setting. The forest setting is fully fenced, secure, just over 3.5 hectares in size and full of the wonders of nature. In addition to the natural wonders of the site, there is a bug hotel, a mud kitchen, a campfire and many other resources such as fairy doors and wands which will be used as prompts to trigger children's imaginations and games.

Little Forest Folk believe passionately not only that outdoor play in nature has tremendous physical and mental benefits to children, but also that free play in itself offers far superior learning properties for children whilst allowing them to have more fun.

We want to encourage our children to enjoy the freedoms and pleasures within nature that we were fortunate enough to enjoy in our generation.

If anyone has any questions about Little Forest Folk or indeed wants to discuss the concept of outdoor based learning, particularly in the early years, we'd love to hear from you.

LocalEditorLambeth Tue 02-Dec-14 21:24:49

This sounds wonderful - I wish we had something like this near us in Lambeth! We do luckily have a nature play group in our local park which I take my two year old daughter to but is there anything that we can easily do when living in a very urban area to introduce children to nature? Especially as many people don't have gardens! Saying that, we have just moved into a house which does have a small garden so do you have any ideas which we don't take up much space/money to engage them in outdoor life? PS: Preferably not involving worms, mummy doesn't like them!

LocalEditorLambeth Tue 02-Dec-14 21:25:49

PS: I am already planning to create a fairy garden with my daughter when the weather improves so any ideas around that would be great - sorry for all the questions!

PottyMouther Tue 02-Dec-14 22:13:43

Wow, this sounds amazing! Sorry for a very basic question which I'm sure you are well prepared for - what do you do with the children when we have bad weather - which is most of the time!

LittleForestFolk Wed 03-Dec-14 07:45:35

It's tricky to find the opportunity to really engage children with nature when we live in such an urban environment, which is why we've created our nursery. The most beneficial play for children is to be immersed in nature however any type of outdoor play is better than playing indoors. If you have a small garden and a 2 year old daughter then that sounds like a wonderful chance to build a fairy corner in the garden. Think dolls house but more natural and inspires and provokes children's imaginations so much more. Definitely try and buy a fairy door (we sometimes leave notes around our fairy doors so our children discover thank you messages from the fairies - a nice way to reaffirm kindness and manners), make some fairy chairs from twigs or even a tea set from acorns aka 'fairy cups'! See pics for inspiration.

Another thing to set up in your garden which never fails to engage and inspire children is a mud kitchen. Although as a warning this gets children VERY messy which is why we have our mud kitchen in the middle of the forest ;-)

LittleForestFolk Wed 03-Dec-14 07:54:53

PottyMouther, don't worry about the basic questions. It's a really new concept for the UK and so it's understandable that parents need more information about how it works.

I read a great quote recently:
"Childhood is that state which ends the moment a puddle is first viewed as an obstacle instead of an opportunity."

It pretty much epitomises our thinking. Children LOVE rain. They love rain, they love puddles, they love mud. It's more adults that have a problem with the weather. If a child is warm and dry then they are happy. We are providing robust Swedish waterproof clothing as part of our children's registration fee. That way we can always ensure our children are warm and dry. And as we wash the outdoor gear for you every night it means your children are returned to you (semi!) clean.

In severe storms where there is a risk of falling branches we will return to our indoor facility (where we also have an amazing outdoor space) however in most weathers we will put up our hoods and dance in the rain! We also have an 8m geodesic dome on site that we use to shelter and warm up if needs be, along of course with our constantly supervised campfire.

Interestingly enough also, spending this year outdoors has given me an insight into UK weather. It's taken for granted that British weather is awful, but we've been outdoors once or twice a week for 3 hours a time since July on our forest site and it's actually only rained twice! And the photo above of the site in brilliant sunshine with some parents in tshirts was taken on our Open Day last weekend! The British weather isn't as bad as we like to say!

HaydonWomble Wed 03-Dec-14 17:10:44

Hi LittleForestFolk

As someone who spent my entire childhood roaming around woods/fields building camps with my brothers, with scarcely any adult intervention at all, I really know the value of outdoor play!

What particular skills do you think children gain from outdoor based play? Or turned on its head, what do you think 21st Century children are missing out on for spending so much time indoors particular during their formative toddler years (and indeed when older)?

Will your Nursery follow the Early Years Learning National Curriculum or will you operate outwith this?

I like the sound of the geodesic dome - what exactly is this?

Where does the idea of Little Forest Folk come from? It brings to mind a Nordic tradition or does it stem from sunnier and warmer climes - I'm guessing that with talking about 'insights into British weather' you may not have grown up here?

Cubaba Wed 03-Dec-14 23:03:55

Hello LittleForestFolk!

I love the concept of what you are doing. As someone with a small garden that consists mainly of chunks of gravelly stone, patio slabs and decking - what could I possibly do to recreate a (very) smaller version of the Little Forest Folk Nursery? Or at least something that would be enjoyable for a 4 year old?

LittleForestFolk Thu 04-Dec-14 19:19:26

Hi HaydonWomble

It sounds as though we had similar childhoods. I grew up in Wales (where it rains much more often than London!) spending most if not all of my days roaming around the fields and forests with my friends. It's such a great way to grow up that after having my first child 3 years ago and really starting to take a look at how children these days grow up, particularly urban children, I really felt the need to do something about it.

I had the vague glimmerings of wanting to create an outdoor space for children to roam free, started to do some research and became quite obsessed with the amazing Swedish system and their forest kindergartens. I got a bit distracted by my second baby then once life settled down I started to once again really focus on what scale it was possible to take inspiration from the Swedish system to create a similar incredible experience for children here.

At Little Forest Folk we will follow the EYFS curriculum, as it's part of our Ofsted requirement to do so. We will, however follow it our own way. For numeracy we will use our weather station and pine cones and leaves to count. For understanding the world we will learn all about the seasons by being immersed in them. For communication and mental development we have noticed an incredible difference in children's behaviour when they are outdoors. They are naturally more communicative as they are more inquisitive. They are also naturally more collaborative, which is lovely to see. As to their physical development, I don't believe there is any type of exercise you can do indoors that even comes close to comparing to scrambling over tree branches and feeling free and alive the way you can only feel when you are out in nature.

Here's a picture of our geodesic dome. Intitally we wanted something more safari tent-esque (inspired by the time my husband and I spent living in Botswana) however we had a huge obstacle in that the council gave us permission for the structure only if the canvas could be removed every night. This was quite the challenge to overcome, to find a structure that would be adequate for shelter for up to 30 children, which also was able to be thrown up and down every day without taking hours. The obstacle turned into an incredibly positive thing as we ended up after months of our research with our fabulous dome. Which we now believe is a million times better than our safari tent would have been! It's true that from obstacles often come great opportunities!

I'm aware this is a ridiculously long reply but please feel free to message back if you'd like more information as I have lots of thoughts of the importance of outdoor play in the early years. And am fortunate enough that I have received a couple of letters from Sir David Attenborough agreeing with me that time immersed in nature is essential for the mental and physical development of children. If he agrees with me, I must be right!

LittleForestFolk Thu 04-Dec-14 19:23:45

Hi Cubaba

Your garden may be small but never underestimate the power and fascination of mud. Could you find a small corner and create a very basic mud kitchen? Just with an old washing up bowl, some pots and pans and utensils? Or if that doesn't suit, how about a bug hotel? Take a couple of plastic 2 litre bottles, cut the ends off to leave a funnel and stuff it with old bits of cloth, leaves, twigs etc then hang it up and go visit it every day to see what bugs have made their home there.

I'd say take your inspiration from your 4 year old. You know what will most entice him/her to increase his/her passion for the outdoors. It may be a mud kitchen, it may be a bug hotel, it may be a veggie patch. Just try to create something that draws him/her outdoors as much as possible!

MrsPatsyW Thu 02-Feb-17 22:20:21

I like the concept of this and I've seen the one in Fulham when I've passed by. But I've always wondered were the children sleep during nap time?

LittleForestFolk Fri 03-Feb-17 12:02:34

The children snuggle up in cosy sleeping bags on raised camp beds inside tents. It's like a camping holiday - the children love it!

Although not all children sleep with us as our youngest is 2 years old & we find many such active children have dropped their sleep before they start with us.

You should go on a site visit of Chiswick or Wimbledon if you'd like to see sleeping facilities as our little ones in Fulham don't sleep, they just have catnaps in our rest tent.

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