5 activities for children to do in the middle of the forest

NATURE – Leaving the classrooms for a breath of fresh air is not every child’s dream? It is no longer a dream today. More and more schools are taking initiatives to teach nature following a very precise pedagogy. This is developed in the book Skovskolen. Co-authored by journalist Pascale D’Erm and the Network of Pedagogy of Nature, published by La Plage, explains this education system and offers a wide range of activities to do in the forest.

Following the principle of “taking care of oneself, others and nature”, these games aim to develop senses, emotional intelligence, knowledge of the forest or even communication and cooperation. And between the twigs and the cones, the tracks and the cries of the animals, the trees, the water and the flowers, the forest is full of resources and the possibilities for activities are enormous.

We have selected five from the book, which we reproduce below:

1. My friend the tree

© Pascale d’Erm (around the fire)

Ideal to spend a quiet time for the child with “his friend” wood

This activity develops:

  • Cooperation
  • Announcement
  • confidence
  • take care of it

The children are in pairs; in return with blindfolds (or closed if the child is more comfortable like that), they are guided by their friend towards a tree. The guide will take care of his companion, slow down and indicate if there are obstacles or branches to avoid.

Always with eyes closed (above all, do not remove the mask or scarf immediately!), They will touch its bark, assess the number of lower branches, their location, smell and smell the aromas that come from it, and then they will try to find him when his vision is restored. For this, the child is brought back to the center of the field by his companion and his mask is removed.

Then his buddy accompanies him in his research and encourages him with clues if necessary. Once the tree is found, the child can spend a quiet time near “his friend” the tree. If he can not find it, it does not matter he chooses another!

For the little ones, an adult-child couple may be relevant, especially when it’s time to be guided by the toddler. A great opportunity to trust and let go!

Author Pascal D’Erm’s statement

“Sight is a dominant sense for us, and this game teaches us to develop the sense of touch. There is also an emotional attachment that the child retains with his tree throughout the year.”

2. Paint and mud sculpture

Contrary to popular belief, forest mud is actually very clean

© Pascale d’Erm (around the fire)

Contrary to popular belief, forest mud is actually very clean

This activity develops:

  • Cooperation
  • the imagination
  • Announcement

While mud is sometimes referred to as dirty, forest mud is actually very clean; it is also proven to strengthen the immune system and boost mental health. Moreover, the mud washes away, while the memories of good times in nature do not disappear! From the bottom of our hearts, we invite young and old to paint with mud on paper, fabric (a large sheet), trees … with a stick, natural brushes (a branch with a little moss, leaves at its end, a feather …), or just with your hands, feet …

You can also make mud sculptures – faces on trees, or alternatively, in 3D, mud castles, mud ball towers (mud balls of different sizes stacked on top of each other, which you can cover them with different materials if you want: dry soil, moss, grass etc.).

Throw mud balls at a target or a transparent shower curtain (possibility to be behind the curtain for guaranteed fun).

Dorogando: Japanese art of polished mud ball.

Author Pascal D’Erm’s statement

‘There is something extremely liberating in getting dirty with mud, as opposed to the education they have received. Moreover, painting with mud is a very old artistic gesture that refers to the creativity of the first people today retained by a hygienic society.

3. Nature painting

The opportunity to discover many small natural treasures

Pascale d’Erm (around the fire)

The opportunity to discover many small natural treasures

This activity develops:

  • attention
  • looking at

The adult collects 5 or 6 “treasures” from the forest (cones, tree leaves, blades of grass, small branches, pebbles, etc.) – preferably on the ground. He arranges them on a piece of fabric, like a nature painting, and the kids have 30 seconds to stick it in their memory. Then they close their eyes hard to capture the mental image of what they saw, like a camera. The adult covers the nature painting with a small tablecloth, and the children must then find the same “treasures” in the forest and rebuild the painting.

Do not hesitate to show the table again if a child has not found it (it’s a game!) And even turn the roles around – the children prepare a table to be reconstructed for the adults.

Author Pascale D’Erm’s statement

“Children focus on details in nature, which they usually skim over without really seeing. They become much more attentive. ”

4. The miracle of water and ice

The miracle of water and ice is an opportunity to talk to children about the water cycle

© Ruth Joiner (Association L’Ecole buissonnière)

The miracle of water and ice is an opportunity to talk to children about the water cycle

This activity develops:

  • creativity
  • the wonder
  • the senses
  • understanding of the world

A game to play in the winter, of course, but also all year round if you have a freezer!

The children start by collecting different things to hang in the ice: cones, twigs, acorns, dead leaves, small stones, feathers … They choose different containers and fill them with water. The children put their objects in the water – some sink, others float: it is already a source of amusement.

Then put a string in the container, both ends hanging out of the water. A few drops of natural dye (beetroot juice, etc.) or food coloring can spice up the glazed work. Then it is left to put the containers outside (or in the freezer) for the night. The following days we take the small mobiles out and hang them on a tree branch. The light reflected there will illuminate the eyes of the little ones …

This winter work of art is also an opportunity to remind children that water is 70% of us, that it flows, evaporates, flows in an unchanging cycle for millions of years. The transformation of liquid water into ice and its return to a liquid state will be an opportunity for them to discuss cycles, transformations, changes.

Author Pascale D’Erm’s statement

“This game allows you to marvel at water, which is the foundation of all life.”

Prey and predators

This activity develops:

  • Cooperation
  • problem solving
  • Announcement
  • the senses

By combining exploration of the concept of predation and discovery of tracking, this game often engenders a strong team spirit in children. First of all, it will be necessary to help the children to divide into two teams: the prey and the predators. It is up to you to decide together which animals you want to embody.

The prey has 10 minutes (or any other time determined by the group) to hide in the woods. But like any prey, the children in this group will leave traces of their passage. To do this, they will go in a single lane and pull a large branch behind them and easily mark the ground. After about 8 minutes of walking, the prey stops and hides around where their tracks left off.

When the 10 minutes have passed, the predators go in search of the prey and observe the traces of their passage. It is possible to set a time limit for predators to find all prey, or let any undiscovered prey throw itself over to surprise predators. It’s fun for kids (although it’s not really what’s going on in the animal world, what’s being explained to them).

It is possible to leave arrows made with sticks on the ground to mark the path of the prey team, but also pieces of natural wool of a fairly neutral color, or even very small knife tips of flour thrown on the ground or on the trees. These different markings will create different levels of difficulty.

Author Pascale D’Erm’s statement

“Sometimes it is difficult for children to name predators other than wolves, foxes and lions. This game teaches them about prey, predators, who eats whom and the food chain. “

The activities of L'école de la forêt aim to teach children about nature.
The activities of L’école de la forêt aim to teach children about nature.

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