The Impact of Forest School on Children's Play.

Forest school learning can have a positive impact on the way children play and their social interactions with others. Children might find themselves playing with a peer that they may not usually interact with if they share similar interests.

 In a forest school one could say that there are more opportunities for imaginative play as children can use representation for differing items/resources. Robertson (2008) observed that children attending a forest school in Sweden;
“Played much more imaginatively. The games were more varied, they had a beginning and end which the children themselves decided upon.”
(Robertson, 2008:11)  
One of Frobel’s concepts is children using imagination and role play with natural resources, he placed great emphasis on children using their imaginations and letting creativity flourish while exploring the outdoors as Constable explains (2012).

“Young children have particular way of interacting with their world and of learning about and from it.”
(White, 2008:2)
Children are learning while they are playing and exploring, play makes learning fun.
While exploring and investigating the outdoor in environment children get the chance to take risks, test their boundaries and use all of their senses, this can have a positive impact on the children’s self-esteem and confidence as they achieve challenges they have set themselves.
In the Good Childhood Report (2014) children were asked ‘how often do you play outside?’ the results showed that children who played outside ‘most days’ had higher levels of satisfaction with life and happiness compared to those who never play outside. This information has been reflected upon in the section of the blog pertaining to government legislation.  
This report provides evidence that playing in forest school and the outdoor environment can have a positive impact on children’s well-being.
“There are innumerable benefits of taking children into the woodland but, as prosaic as it may sound, just the fact that there is nothing to break or damage, nothing to keep in order or to keep clean, will often immediately relax children and adults alike and give a sense of freedom to any endeavour.”
(Pace, 2014:5)
Being in the outdoor environment can have a positive calming effect on children, they are more relaxed so their play can become more in depth, as they don’t have to worry about breaking or misplacing resources.
Most children prefer to be in the outdoor environment during their free play and given the choice would choose to play outside.
“The outdoors always comes out at the top of children’s priorities and favourite things in their early childhood education setting.”
(White, 2014:2)
Children can enjoy the freedom the outdoor environment offers as they learn, play and explore.
Author Victoria


  1. Hello Victoria, loved reading your blog. I was wondering if you could help, when doing forest school with children with special educational needs or disabilities (I know outside can only benifits all children) but are the learning and development impacts going to run along the same outcomes. Many thanks Amy

  2. Hello Amy, thank you for such a thought provoking question. In practice it is felt that no two children's learning outcomes are the same, as all children are unique and develop differently so for example a child climbing a tree will not have the same learning outcomes as a child digging in the mud that day.

    As for Forest Schools and children with special educational needs, it is a valid point as to whether a Forest School is accessible to everyone. From an inclusive perspective a risk assessment should be carried out in full to 'assess opportunities' rather then focus on what a child cannot do, practitioners should instead observe what the child can do. Risks can be easily managed and simple environmental adjustments made to the site in order to be inclusive, like clearing a path for a wheelchair. Provision should be made for all children to have support where required, but not to interfere with their learning.

    "Be open to the possibility - talk to the participants and the adults that know them to work out how you can make it happen."
    (Knight. 2011:126).

    All children can benefit from forest school, even those with difficulties given the right level of support.

    Many thanks,



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