People talk about the smell of babies. Inhaling as your lips brush the top of your children’s heads. Knowing their fragrant little beings. My favourite smell in the whole world is the smell of woodsmoke in my daughter’s hair.
She gets it from forest school.
Tibbs was at a forest school nursery for the final year before school, and it is without a doubt the best decision we have ever made. Knowing that she spent more time outdoors than in, that learning was both play and nature driven, in the most delicious, welcoming setting, made my working days go quicker and my heart feel fuller.
It also made the thought of confining her to the classroom for the next fourteen years feel like a sea-change of unbearable proportions. It changed my entire outlook on what I should be looking for in a primary school, but that’s another story.
There’s a school holiday club at the nursery. And at half-term, she went for the first time. It was so fantastic to smell that woodsmoke again.
There were friends from before she left there to spend time with. There were adventures of the most daring kind. There was pizza on the fire, hot chocolate, river walks, mud, tools, laughing in the woods, running and chasing. It didn’t matter about the weather, or that her overalls were too big. Wild wees and dirty fingernails. The business of being little and free and lovely.
I don’t flinch in the least looking at these pictures of my four year old using tools, and I hope you don’t either. It’s magic to me. This is my daughter and she’s as wild as her hair.
This is a paragraph from the report we received after the holiday club at half-term:
As always, the children get the choice to do whatever they want to from our choice of activities. Giving them the power to pick and choose means they will be doing activities they want to do, as opposed to activities we need them to do. There are portions of the day where the children are free to explore and play amongst themselves. This is important because this unaided, child-driven play is where the magic happens. Despite this, they will often dip in and out of adult-led activities happening whether it is fire lighting or use of tools, and we sometimes ask the children if there is something in particular they wanted to make or achieve during their time with us. The week was particularly crafty and many of the children wanted to make something to take home. Now, we’re all about creativity and bringing ideas to life, but the most important part is what the children learn from the process of creating, whether is from using tools with wood or crafting with clay and natural materials.
Sounds like a perfect day to me, and Tibbs certainly thought so.
This post is lightly self-indulgent, I know, but it has a purpose. If you have a local forest school, try it out. If you have a holiday club one, especially try it out. This wonderful educational development is the epitome of why we moved to the South West, and why I prefer this kind of early years education to any desk-based curriculum. Wild flowers, respect for fire, tree leaf identification, pollution, my daughter tells me what’s what now.
The forest school holiday club is at Welton Freerangers. Welton is between Radstock and Midsommer Norton, which is about a 40 minute drive from Bristol.
Thanks to Ed Harding, the Forest School leader, for use of his incredible photos, and to the little boy in the pictures with Tibbs, for being a friend she talks about often and misses.