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Putting the ‘Forest’ back into your Summer time Plans

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With the start of the summer term and three months vacation coming up, many of us may be starting to dread the planning, time, expense and effort that goes into keeping our children entertained.

But ‘entertainment’ doesn’t have to mean big days out to the amusement park or even long drives to the lake. You’re lucky in the amazing State of Colorado to have nature on your doorstep just waiting to be explored.

Most of us are aware of the benefits of being outside.  But for those in the city, the increasing pressure on children to do well in school, 24-hour social media coupled with the loss of ‘free play’ that most of us had growing up are more reasons why we should be spending as much time outside with our kids than ever.

Likely a direct result of the above, the idea of ‘Forest School’ has become increasingly popular.

Forest School sessions are now offered in a huge range of settings from city parks to rural forests, by many different providers including mainstream schools, after-school clubs and even agencies countering addiction and social exclusion.

In Forest School kids are given the freedom to follow their interests and develop their own learning at their own pace.  They are allowed to run and make a noise, get their hands dirty and take (managed) risks.

‘Forest School’ can also include activities that provide different experiences in nature – not just to get them outside but more importantly, to help kids develop resilience, confidence and emotional intelligence amongst other things.

All this in a natural setting.

So does this mean organizing a game of tag in the park? Sort of, but there’s a lot more to it than that.

“A Year of Forest School” offers a host of free and fun activities that you can do just by heading outside to your local park or woods. Kids learn about nature but can benefit from independence, confidence building and so much more!

Here’s one to get you started:

Bark Masks

Bark that has been shed by trees provides the ideal material to make masks during the summer season, as it causes no damage.

This activity introduces conversations about ancient human history and traditional practices that still take place today. Finding the right trees and bark enhances the children’s knowledge of trees and, without being constrained by a defined outcome, they’re free to shape their own piece of work.  This boosts their sense of independence and confidence. Putting on the finished product opens up a world of imagination!

Begin by identifying an Aspen, Sycamore or Maple Trees (common all over Colorado). They will be making masks out of the bark.

Ask the kids to gather a handful of bark from the ground, looking for different colours, shapes and sizes that catch their eye.

Now the kids should take a piece of card large enough to cover the top half of their face and cut it into any shape they want. Don’t forget the eye-holes.

Break the bark into small pieces, apply glue to the card and then stick on the bark. Punch holes in the side and tie a string to hold the mask in place.

Once the masks are done, it’s time to transform . . . imagine fairies, insects, warriors and even aliens!

Feeling inspired? Next time you’re out and wondering what to do with the kids, try this and order a copy of the book for more ideas on how you can keep your children happy and healthy in the outdoors.

The book A Year of Forest School is out on May 8th. Priced $16.95.

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