The national lockdown, combined with virtual lessons means that many children are spending the majority of their time in front of a screen, and are not getting outdoors enough. With the benefits of outdoor education and forest school including increased confidence and independence, empathy for others and nature, improved physical fitness and better mental health, why not give our top ten DIY forest school activities a go at home?
At Bredon, we make the most of our rural 84 acre site; Junior School pupils spend two hours a week in the woods learning a range of practical skills, including weaving with hazel, building shelters, splitting wood, and under supervision, making campfires and climbing trees.
They observe the habitats of insects, learn about leaf identification, plant trees and create numerous works of art from branches and twigs. It is also the place to learn basic cooking skills, such as boiling hot water and making hot chocolate on the campfire.
During lockdown, why not run your own forest school sessions? We are not suggesting that you need your very own woodland, or 84 acre site to be able to replicate some of the activities that we host here at school – there are many things you can do from your back garden, or whilst out on your daily walk!
1. Building a den
This back-to-nature activity will help your child to develop problem solving skills, as well as thinking creatively and learning how to build a simple structure. Challenge your child to build a den in the garden using sticks, leaves, tyres, garden furniture, and anything else they can find. It may help to give them old towels or a sheet to incorporate into their design. If it’s raining or perhaps you have no outside space, this activity can work just as well in the living room building an inside den!
2. Scavenger Hunt
Create a list using either words or photographs of the objects that your child needs to find. This could include a certain flower in the garden, or a leaf from a particular tree. Perhaps they need to collect rocks of three different sizes or textures – this will help with a ‘multi-sensory’ approach to their learning, as well as helping them with memory and observation skills.
3. Build a Bug Hotel
Encourage insects to your garden by building them their very own residence using planks of wood or old pallets or crates piled up with bricks between the layers. Your child can fill the gaps between the layers with things to make their visitors at home, such as cardboard tubes, shredded paper, feathers and pebbles, and keep checking every day to see who has moved in.
4. Build a Mini Raft
Use sticks and string to build a mini raft which you can then try and float in your paddling pool or bathtub – experiment with different ways to build them and see which one floats the best!
5. Make Your Own Water Filter!
Get crafty with nature and learn how to clean dirty water with a natural filter, using a few simple materials that you can find in your garden or local green space and around your home. Watch this video to see how – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vgp95mHfjck&feature=emb_title
6. My Street Tree
Download this ‘My Street Tree’ activity sheet from Wild Watch – http://7474fab53f1b6ee92458-8f3ac932bad207a00c83e77eaee8d15c.r12.cf1.rackcdn.com/STREET-TREE.jpg and use it to help your child to study a tree near your home. This activity encourages children to think about the type of tree, how it benefits nature and how it creates a home for nature.
7. Plant a Herb Garden
Using a small plant pot or window box, create a mini herb garden for your home. You can purchase herb plants such as rosemary, mint and sage from most supermarkets, or you could choose to buy seeds online. This activity can help to teach children about germination and how plants grow, and you can even use the herbs in your home cooking lessons!
8. Outdoor Cooking
If you have a safe space, why not build a campfire? If your garden is not suitable, you could use a small barbeque to toast marshmallows on sticks – try this as an evening activity and gather as a family to tell stories, read poems or sing songs around the fire. You could try boiling water for hot chocolate or popping popcorn (use two sieves together to create a popcorn cage) over the fire too.
9. Leaf Art
Get your child to go outside and collect as many leaves as they can in a bag. Tell them to try and find leaves of different sizes, colours and shapes, and then use the leaves to create art. Use glue to stick the leaves on paper or canvass to create a leaf mosaic, paint the leaves and use them as leaf stamps, put a piece of paper over the leaf and take a leaf rubbing, or trace around the leaves and colour them in to create a pretty leaf picture.
10. Go on a Nature Walk
Next time you go out for a walk as a family, encourage your child to be on the lookout for nature. They could bring a notebook and pen and write down all of the animals they can spot whilst walking, or take photos of the different flowers, animals and trees you spot on your way. If you live in a fairly residential area, you would be surprised how many animals you may still be able to find, eg, cats, dogs, birds, or even ants on the pavement!