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  • Writer's pictureKristyna Skriczka

How to get free forest school for children in the UK

Updated: Jul 30, 2023

One savvy mum discovered that a chicken bred to the “Organic” standard set by the UK’s Soil Association is required to have a minimum of 10 square metres of space outside. And while the EYFS requires children to get access to an outdoor play area, the size or type of the outdoor play area is not specified. What’s a parent to do?

Young child gently stroking a chick
Importance of nature in children's lives

Countless research shows the benefits of nature to mental and physical health. The growing success of ‘forest nurseries’ and 'forest schools' shows parents value nature in their children’s lives. Some research suggests nature is the ‘natural’ treatment for ADD and ADHD. a time of devastating environmental threats, developing a stronger mutually supportive relationship between people and the environment will be critical...(Mental Health Foundation)

Yet, many children do not have daily access to green spaces. Outdoor play areas are oftentimes concrete patches squeezed between parking lots and brick walls.

The EYFS, the standards that school and childcare providers must meet for the learning, development and care of children from birth to five does not place any specific requirements on the size or type of outdoor play area that is available to children.

Few square meters of astroturf neighbouring a busy road? Outdoor play area sorted!

But parents are not powerless against the Department for Education. Some are getting creative in order to ensure their children get the best start in life. One savvy mum discovered that a chicken bred to the “Organic” standard set by the UK’s Soil Association is required to have a minimum of 10 square metres of space outside. She learned that organic chickens must have continuous and easy daytime access to an outdoor range covered with suitable vegetation. That is more than a child is granted.

For Jane, mum to a five-year-old Emily, it was time to get creative. Equipped with a chicken costume bought from Amazon, Jane now sends her daughter to an organic chicken farm in Somerset.

Jane told me: “Emily’s Reception class only had a small concrete playground with a climbing frame and few old car tyres. We both work full time to keep up with the bills so Emily was in both breakfast and after school clubs which meant she only got to be in nature with us on the weekends.

Jane had looked at moving Emily to another state school which has a large woodland area and an allotment on site. However, having spoken to a few parents she discovered that even children in this school don’t spend a lot of time outdoors. They said changing children into waterproofs and wellies is simply too time-consuming, the teachers are struggling to keep up with the workload as is. The rumour is the school doesn’t like to

waste valuable learning time on muddy play

They are too busy monitoring, evidencing and meeting the attainment targets set by the government.

Jane says they live outside the catchment area anyway and moving is not an option for them. She also explored a private woodland school but the fees are simply unaffordable, even if she took on a third job on top of the two she already has. So Jane came up with a plan.

Emily took some time getting used to the chicken costume and we had to practise the clucking…she is now really good at it. Even at her young age, she understands dressing up as a chicken is the price we pay to have access to green outdoors all day long.”

Jane says:“ provides many behavioural opportunities for Emily she would otherwise not have. It's a stimulating environment where she can explore and move freely…Since she has been going, I can see a real difference in her, she sleeps better, she is happier and calmer.”

Jane is also happy that her daughter gets fed 100% organic food all day, something she can not afford to do for her child. With a worried expression, Jane adds: “At first I was worried the farmers would notice she does not lay any eggs and send her away… but Emily just blends into the crowd…she got really good at that in her primary school which was a four form entry…you know…being one of many.”

I ask Jane if she thinks the trend will catch on. She said she already heard of other families doing the same thing. “As a mum, you just want what’s best for your child, no matter what…I would prefer my daughter was allowed to play and learn in nature during her school day…but until that happens, I will keep sending my little girl to the farm in her chicken costume.”

Obviously, the characters in this interview are fictional, please don't send your child to a chicken farm!

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My new book Tractor Worries introduces children to mindful breathing for self-regulation and demonstrates the power of creative problem-solving. It is available to buy here. Written by my own human hand (NO AI!) and with utmost respect for the child reader.




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