Forest Kindergarten

Kids Outdoors

One front in the effort to get kids outdoors enjoying natural play is kindergarten.  The idea is that if pre-kindergarten and kindergarten-aged kids spend everyday exploring outdoors they will develop the ability to truly play and learn important life lessons and skills along the way.


Several years ago a public school effort in Switzerland was proven successful. There, the kids, aged four to seven, are outdoors year around in a forest with a creek to play in and forest materials with which to build things.  They enjoy sword fighting with sticks, wading in the creek (and falling in), feeling the heat of a campfire, learning to whittle with a knife, toasting marshmallows, building a track that a ball can follow down a hill, hammering nails, climbing trees and about anything else they can dream up.  They also enjoying many of the standard kindergarten experiences like learning to sing, playing red light – green light, learning to dance and playing with playground equipment (made of ropes and wood).
The following video offers a good look at the Swiss experience.

Hong Kong

More recently the school system in Hong Kong was inspired by the Swiss example and started several forest kindergartens.  One such kindergarten began with an eight-week experimental session with a handful of kids age two to five that continued to an eight-month session with hundreds of kids and an expanding cadre of teachers.  The school takes its kids to parks and nature centers.  It has them climbing rocks, swimming in a river, searching for hidden toy insects (hidden in their correct habitats),  and doing many other things.  They are encouraged to run and yell explore and create adventures.  The kids even carry their own backpacks and take hour-long walks.  Tried that with a two-year-old lately?  For more on the Hong Kong experience see the school’s Facebook page @hkforestkindergarten


butterfly playCedarsong Nature School opened the first Forest Kindergarten in the U.S. on Vashon Island, Washington.  That school follows the tenets of the German Waldkindergartens, similar to the other schools.  Learn more at the school’s website and their Facebook page.


In all these types of schools, the kids may be given materials to play with,  but they develop their own ideas as to what to do with the materials.  Their play is unstructured and self-developed.  Overall, the result is kids with much more self-confidence and self-reliance and much less hyperactivity disorder.

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