Kids these days are learning differently. Many children are stuck to screens for a majority of the day, or learn to rely on computers for simple tasks like spelling. While technology in classrooms is certainly not a bad thing, it may not always be ideal for helping a child’s natural development. It’s no question that in order to learn and grow, play, socializing, and being curious about the environment, is essential for young children. If you are a parent, you might want to consider sending your kids or the kids in your life to a forest kindergarten.
What is It?
A forest kindergarten is a school for preschool children ages 3-6, that takes place almost entirely outdoors. Children are encouraged to engage with the natural environment as much as possible. They make toys out of objects they find outside, or socialize by playing hide-and-seek behind the trees. If you’re wondering how your kid is going to learn the ABC’s or how to hold scissors, don’t worry. They will learn all these skills. It’s just that now their classroom is outside, instead of being surrounded by walls.
The notion of forest kindergartens began in Europe in the 1950’s. In fact, the word “kindergarten” comes from German which literally means “child garden.” They have been seen in Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and for quite some time now, the U.S., where the first school opened in 1996.
What about Supervision?
The role of teachers in forest kindergarten is not so much as to teach, but to supervise. Children are encouraged to be advocates for their own learning. And, because teachers are spending less time helping students with academics, they have more time to focus on safety. The rules for ratio of teachers to students is exactly the same as anywhere else.
What Happens if it Rains?
“Rain, rain, go away, come again another day.” So what if it rains? Parents who are outdoor enthusiasts know all too well that you can’t let the rain stop you from having fun! If anything, learning in the rain is a way for them to learn to cope with obstacles that come their way. Anyway, kids are usually unphased by weather, and us adults are the ones that get bothered by it. Though, it’s important to know that if the weather is unsafe, there is a shelter that the kids and staff can stay in.
How to Find a Forest Kindergarten Near You
While forest kindergartens might not be as popular as regular preschools or Montessori schools, they can still be found. However, it might mean having to drive a little bit to get there. The best way to find out if there’s a forest kindergarten near you is by doing a Google search “Forest kindergarten + town name.” Hopefully, something will come up. As of now, schools are up and coming in the west, specifically California. Also, check out this Facebook group for more information.
How Much Does it Cost?
Unfortunately, preschools or day cares in general aren’t very cheap. Additionally, it’s hard to get an idea of exactly how much you could expect to pay for a forest kindergarten. For starters, the Berkeley Forest School costs about $825 a month, but, they do offer discounts for siblings. It’s safe to assume that most forest kindergartens fall around the same price. Don’t be alarmed though. If you’re already familiar with preschool costs, then this doesn’t come at too much of a surprise.
The Impact of Forest Kindergartens
Forest kindergartens can do wonders for children. First of all, they are said to help children with stress, in a way closed preschools can’t (or sometimes even cause). They are also said to help with language skills, as all the role playing helps kids to expand on their vocabulary. Of course, forest kindergartens help so much with a child’s physical, mental, and emotional development. They will be more coordinated, more resilient, and more likely to be resourceful in an emergency.
The Benefits for Parents
Kids are not the only ones benefiting from school in the forest. Parents also gain a lot. Studies have shown that children who attended the German version of forest kindergartens did better in school subjects later on. This is great news for parents who don’t want to be worried about their child’s performance. It can also help with creating a more active child and active family. Most of all, it helps parents to trust their kids more, and not be so concerned about trivial things. It also raises kids who will be ecstatic about being your partner on your next hike!
Technology can be great in classrooms, but preschool kids need more play. Why not sign up your kid for forest kindergarten, and watch them grow to love the backcountry as much as you do!