Skip to main content


forest school education

Childhood development and the benefits of Forest Schools

By Education, environment, family, Family Farms, Forest School, fun for children, Gardening, Green

Forest Schools are an exciting opportunity for children to learn with their hands. The sessions, which are non-academic and led by a qualified instructor, encourage outdoor education in a controlled setting. This can come in a range of forms, from group treasure hunts to woodland building exercises.

These schools encourage children to ditch the computer screen and spend more time outdoors – and considering children aged five to seven years old spend an average of four hours behind a screen every day, the need for outdoor education has never been clearer.

In fact, Forest Schools are actually becoming an increasingly popular choice for parents across the UK. According to a survey of 200 establishments by the Forest School Association (FSA), two-thirds have seen a rise in requests for places since March 2020.

Here, we will explore four skills that children develop when attending Forest Schools. If you’re a parent searching for ways to stimulate your child’s development, these schools may be the solution for you and your family.

Social and communication skills
Forest Schools are a great way for children to socialise with their peers. Whether they’re jumping in muddy puddles or foraging for wild berries, children are able to work within a team and complete their tasks. In fact, research from Plymouth University found that 93% of Forest Schools believed children developed their social skills whilst enrolled.

Moreover, Forest Schools are an opportunity to meet new children. The average number of pupils in Reception and KS1 classrooms is 26.6, according to GOV UK. Forest Schools introduce a new selection of children who may be from different backgrounds or be of different ages. This better prepares children for meeting more diverse groups of people in later life.

Confidence and independence
If your child exhibits any signs of social anxiety, it may be harder for them to take part. However, participating in Forest Schools can actually boost confidence. This is a slow process that will progress over time, and it is different for each child.

A sense of independence is particularly important for children. As well as building the social skills to work well within a team, Forest Schools offer children the chance to complete tasks by themselves. This includes a range of activities, such as charting the species of plants or flowers they find in a specific outdoor area.

Motor and cognitive abilities
More often than not, traditional schools focus on academic education. There are physical education (or PE) lessons, but these do not make up the bulk of the day. Instead, children practise their literacy and numeracy skills within the confines of a classroom.

In comparison, Forest Schools allow children to stay active. Not only is this regular exercise important for bone and muscle strength, but it is also instrumental in developing childhood motor skills. It doesn’t matter if the sun is shining or rain clouds are looming, children are able to boot up in wellies and let the outdoor learning commence.

Physical activity could also improve cognitive function in children. These include the ability to recall information and flexible thinking. This is beneficial for many areas of life, including excelling in traditional schools.

A sustainable mindset
Sustainability is at the forefront of society. As the nation strives to achieve net-zero, teaching children about the environment has never been more important. After all, they are the future minds of tomorrow, and we should continue to educate them as best as we can.

Forest Schools may be the answer. During these lessons, children develop a sustainable mindset. This is a lot more likely than a child who spends most of their time inside, whether this is at home or in a classroom.

These are four skills children can attain after attending Forest Schools. In addition to the many benefits, this is a time for children to have fun. If they learn something along the way – from the importance of ecology, to the ability to work well in a team – that is a welcomed bonus. When will you enrol your child in Forest Schools?

Article supplied by

Sources: – – – –


family farm

The benefits of bonding with animals for children’s emotional development

By Education, environment, Family Farms, fun for children, Gardening, Green, Mental health

by Nicola Henderson
Godstone Farm

For many of us, our first friends in life might be a sibling or cousins, but more often than not, it is a furry friend in the form of a family pet. A dog, cat or even a pet fish can teach children so much about caring for others, helping young children learn to express empathy for another soul and understanding the responsibilities required to look after an animal. This is the core principle behind the ethos of many family farm attractions across the UK and accounts for the demand from parents for their children to attend farm-based nurseries and preschools too.

Typically, farm parks and farm-based nurseries are an ideal way for children to learn about how to care for a huge variety of animals – quite literally ‘all creatures great and small’ in a safe way. Many childcare experts have extolled the benefits of sensory play, but in many respects, learning to interact with animals is the original sensory play. For young children who are interested in, and emotionally invested in animals, it can also be a highly effective learning ‘tool’. Utilising things that drive learning and follow a child’s interests can really fast-track a child’s learning and can be much more effective than a prescribed curriculum.

Today, a number of family farm attractions now offer one-to-one hands-on animal experiences from goat herding to meerkat feeding, to help small children learn about the needs of animals, whilst farm based nurseries make daily visits to the animals’ pens, ponds, sties or hutches. Animal encounters are a fantastic way to provoke all-important curiosity, and illicit conversations about a variety of scenarios and new vocabulary to small children. When it comes to emotional development especially, the role of animals
positively correlates with feelings of importance, social competence, and self-esteem. When children learn to care for animals they also learn that treating them nicely and patiently is an invaluable experience in learning to treat people the same way. Animals teach kids about patience and self-control, animals don’t always behave the way we want them to be. Animals can get over excited, scared and bite or peck but learning how to deal with these behaviours teaches children to be patient and have self-control. Children learn to have soft but firm voices and how to be gentle and careful. Animals have proved to be incredibly therapeutic for the children and can reduce stress and anxiety. It’s also recognised that animals give children an understanding of our natural world and how we can look after it. Looking after wildlife’s habitats such as building hedgehog houses or bug hotels, supports complementary discussion about recycling and being resourceful.

Animals also provide children with lessons about life (reproduction, birth, illnesses, accidents, death, and bereavement). Children have the opportunity to see lambs being born and eggs hatching. Animals provide knowledge in biology. When children spend time around the different animals they begin to understand basic biology and how that translates between animal species. Activities like grooming animals and feeding them, understanding what they eat and how food is digested, develops children’s knowledge and of course, children love discussing poo!

Indeed, ask any farmer and they will tell you that they are always busy! Animals create a constant stream of jobs; day in day out, there is something to be done. Rain or shine, from season to season, dawn until dusk, there are animal caring tasks which children can get involved in. With the support of experienced enthusiastic practitioners, children are often excited and look forward to new and alternative experiences that come from time spent with farm animals.

Obviously, a key part of any animal experience is to ensure children feel secure and confident. A cheeky piglet or an inquisitive pony can create opportunities for children to challenge themselves and experience careful risk taking in a positive way. A landmark study by Williams-Siegfredsen (2011) believed that, if children were not exposed to risk, they were denied the opportunity to learn to address everyday challenges and problems. Moreover, the Health and Safety Executive argued that ‘the goal is not to eliminate risk, but to weigh up the risks and benefits. No child will learn about risk if they are wrapped in cotton wool!’ (HSE, 2012, p.1).

Risky play is seen as an important element in animal experiences and naturally, animals can sometimes be unpredictable. In this instance, young children learn about keeping safe when handling and feeding and are taught about infection control measures, how to use equipment safely such as closing gates, how to brush a horse or move around animals safely. As evidenced from a number of Early Years studies, children need personal contact with real animate people and creatures before play can become rich and satisfying (White, 2011).

Godstone Farm in Surrey offers a wider range of animal experiences allowing children (and adults) the chance to go behind the scenes and experience the many benefits of animal contact.

forest skills

Using outdoor learning to enrich a child’s education

By Education, environment, Family Farms, Forest School, Green, Mental health

by Barnaby Sandow
Head of School, ACS International School Cobham

The great outdoors is an invaluable and immediate educational resource, uniquely placed to build children’s awareness of the world, while being highly beneficial to both their personal and academic development.

Outdoor learning can take many forms – from taking a maths lesson outside, to giving children the opportunity to explore the fauna and flora of their surroundings. As a result, it has a wide range of benefits.

Research has shown improved health and wellbeing as one of the many outcomes of outdoor learning. Learning in the great outdoors not only allows children to be more active during the school day and lead a healthier lifestyle, but also provides an opportunity for them to relax and subsequently feel more refreshed and ready to learn. Taking the classroom outside can also increase student engagement; outdoor settings have the ability to fully energise an inquiring mind in a completely different way to indoor classroom environments.

Helping schools to enhance their outdoor learning offering and ensure children can enjoy meaningful and effective lessons, the Forest School Association offers a national accreditation that schools can apply for to deliver both structured and unstructured outdoor sessions. At our school, we have a long-established Forest School programme, led by our own Forest School accredited teachers and trainers, who are able to deliver valuable outdoor sessions for children from the age of two upwards.

The beauty of Forest School and general outdoor learning is that it offers children great variety in their learning. In one session, children could be asked to create natural inventions, such as flower crowns or pressed leaf drawings, and share stories with one another; this encourages creativity while enabling them to reflect on their experiences. In another session, children could be taught how to build a campfire and learn about fire safety, giving them the opportunity to physically test their skills in the real world and build the confidence to take risks in a supported and safe environment.

Forest School learning can see children journeying together through the woods or engaging in simple rough and tumble, which engage all of a child’s senses and are crucial for helping them to make sense of the world around them, while strengthening their communication and teamwork skills.

In outdoor sessions, children are also given free time to fully explore and interact with nature, being able to discover a variety of trees, plants and their surroundings in greater detail and learn about the world around them – in the most hands-on way possible.

From our experience, we have found that outdoor learning is particularly beneficial for younger children. They are given the space to be active and enjoy being noisy and messy, while engaging in play-based learning and exploration. With activities based on small, achievable steps, spending time outside helps to increase self-confidence and independence in the early years. Additional benefits of outdoor learning for younger children include improving their focus and attention, while physically helping to improve their balance, co-ordination and fine motor skills.

Beyond school, there are many ways that parents can facilitate outdoor learning in the evenings and the holidays to continue their child’s development at home. By encouraging simple and fun learning activities, such as den-building, painting a mural in the garden, or taking garden and wildlife photography, parents can help to spark the imagination of their child and increase their motivation to learn in all areas of their life – not just in the classroom!

For more information on ACS Cobham’s provision and to book an open day, please visit:

Forest school benefits

Exploring the world of Forest School

By Education, environment, Gardening, Green, Mental health
by Rachel Martini
Nursery Manager, Little Lancing Day Nursery & Forest School

There’s been a real buzz about Forest School in recent years – but what’s it all about and why is it becoming increasingly popular?

Forest School in the UK is based upon the Scandinavian concept of ‘friluftsliv’ – free air life – an open-air culture which has long been very much a way of life in those countries. It first made its way to the UK as long ago as 1993 and has grown in leaps and bounds since then, both here and around the world.

The UK Forest School Community, way back in 2011, came together to define the ethos of Forest School in this country. Broadly it is a child-centred learning process that inspires children through play, exploration and supported risk-taking. It inspires children to undertake hands-on learning experiences in a natural setting and builds confidence and self-esteem through regular play sessions.

The provision for Forest School covers a wide range. From Early Years settings that operate completely out of doors, to those nurseries and schools with bespoke outdoor learning spaces, to sessions for children that take place outdoors in their nursery garden or school grounds.

Whatever the format offered, Forest School is firmly aimed at sparking children’s curiosity with the world around them, building an awareness and connection with the natural world and using their outdoor environment to develop important life skills. It also gives children a chance to make connections and to experience fun and challenging activities, away from the lure of the electronic world they are growing up in. Yes they are becoming digital natives but they are first and foremost natives of the ‘real world’ too!

In summary, the six basic principles of Forest School are that it:
• Offers a long-term programme of frequent and regular sessions, with careful planning, adaptation, observations and then review.
• Takes place in a woodland or natural wooded environment, wherever possible, to support the development of a relationship between the learner and the natural world, although good Forest School practice can of course be well supported in other sites with only a few trees.
• Fosters resilient, confident, independent and creative learners, with experiences linked to home and nursery/school where appropriate.
• Provides learners with the opportunity to take supported risks appropriate to the environment and to themselves, using tools and fires where appropriate and within the framework of a baseline risk assessment.
• Is run by qualified practitioners with a minimum of an accredited Level 3 Forest School qualification, who continuously maintain and develop their professional practice. It has a high ratio of practitioner to learners. Practitioners hold up-to-date first aid qualifications, including paediatric elements.
• Uses a learner-centred pedagogical approach that is responsive to the needs and interests of learners, with play and choice an integral part of learning and development.

The benefits to young children of learning through play within the natural environment are clear to see. Forest School helps children to develop holistically, at their own pace, into resilient, confident, independent and creative learners. They learn teamwork skills building ‘nests’ or shelters and are encouraged to develop risk awareness through activities such as bushcraft. They instinctively use natural resources for inspiration, following the flow of the seasons to explore for example bluebells in spring, birds nesting and leaves changing colour in the autumn. They take learning outdoors and make connections with the natural world around them. At a time when climate and environmental issues are becoming critically important, Forest School is a great – and, we believe, essential – grounding for our future citizens.

Rachel Martini is the Nursery Manager at Little Lancing Day Nursery & Forest School. For further details please call 01273 465900 or visit

outdoors in summer

Six fun outdoor activities

By environment, fun for children, Green, play, Playing

Summer is here and to make sure your family has months filled with laughter and excitement, you can easily plan adventures outdoors. This can be something as simple as a walk through your local park.

Here are some of the best ways to keep your little ones entertained in the great outdoors during the warmer months.

1. Craft and complete a nature spotting sheet
To educate your little ones about the beauty of nature, you can craft your own nature spotting sheets. The RSPB has created a spotting sheet for beautiful birds. If spotting blackbirds and magpies sounds exciting, this can be used as a template for your spotting sheet.

You could make your own sheet beyond spotting birds. This can include a range of flowers or plants, as well as butterflies and other insects. If your children enjoy arts and crafts, they will also have fun making these before going on the walk. So really, this is two activities rolled into one!

2. Build a fortress out of sticks and shrubs
Children love to play and be as imaginative as possible, so a few sticks and shrubs can be enough to entertain them for the whole afternoon. Depending on how many people you are with, you can even make rival fortresses and vote on which one is best.

The outdoors can be an unpredictable playground. Children will be using sticks and other natural materials from the ground, so these must be checked by an adult to ensure nobody gets a nasty splinter.

3. Have a scavenger hunt
What could be more exciting than a scavenger hunt? This is a great way to let children think imaginatively about the world around them. You could, for example, make a colour-coded sheet and let your little ones find items that match these. For example, set them off looking for green leaves, purple flowers, or brown sticks.

This can be a short activity, or it could last throughout the whole walk. We all know the British summer can be unpredictable. To make sure you’re ready for any weather, remember to pack a reliable girl’s or boy’s waterproof jacket. Then you can scavenge in the rain and sunshine.

4. Barks and crafts
There are lots of opportunities to be artistic in the outdoors. Tree-bark rubbing, for example, is a simple and easy way to create a masterpiece. This imprints the textures of the bark onto a piece of paper, which can be cut into a collage and displayed on the fridge.

This is the perfect activity to do on a walk. Rather than bringing a bag full of paints, all you will need is some paper and a soft crayon. Crayons are soft, so it is easier to print the woodland textures. Even better, you can use these prints to create a guide on the different species of trees in the park.

5. Collect wildflowers to press and cherish
Sprouting flowers are one of the best things about spring. Flowers are beautiful, but unfortunately, they don’t last forever. To make sure you can see these all year round, your whole family can collect wildflowers on your walk. These can range from daffodils to primroses – or whatever you can scavenge.

There are lots of ways to press wildflowers. The most child-friendly option would be to place the flower between the pages of a book. It can take up to three weeks for the wildflower to flatten completely, but this will be worth the wait.

6. Enjoy a delicious picnic as a family
Walking can be tiring, especially when you’re taking part in so many fun activities. So it’s always a good idea to bring a selection of snacks and drinks. A picnic in the park is a fun break for your little ones to recharge their batteries. But remember to bring a picnic blanket to sit on to avoid damp grass, or you might have to eat your treats in the trees!

These are some of the best ways to make a walk exciting. It’s always a good idea to spend time outdoors, especially during the warmer months. Which activity will you do first?

Article supplied by


eco warrior ABC

How to inspire a ‘green’ mindset in your children

By Education, Green
by Fleur Wells
Parent, Teacher, Young Climate Warriors Trustee

To paraphrase Whitney Houston; the children are our future! A cliché perhaps, but like all good clichés, it’s rooted in truth. In a short while, our children could be the independent decision-makers, teachers, activists, enthusiasts, policy-makers, and catalysts-for-change we hope they will be. The onus is therefore on us, as parents, the main educators in their lives, to inspire, teach and provide the toolkits to live in an eco-positive and sustainable way.

So, no pressure then.

How can parents help their children have a green mindset?

No one wants to be a nag; we all get sick of hearing the sound of our own voices doing that, and it is only a short-term approach, enforcing uninspired, duty-boundness. If we want our children to inspire others, we must, of course, inspire them.

Perhaps some shock factor, to get the sustainable juices going? There’s plenty to doom-scroll online if you’re looking for something to jolt them into action, in the hope of inspiring them to be the next Greta. While alarmism is often a very effective stimulus, it is not the only and certainly not the best tool in your kit. Great for attention grabbing, but it can also contribute to a great deal of counter-productive anxiety, and even worse have a negative impact on mental health.

So, if as a parent you are looking for positive messaging about climate change – to encourage and empower, rather than potentially trigger eco-anxiety, Young Climate Warriors is one of a number of fun, matter-of-fact and practical resources available to you, and for free.

Its purpose is to inspire young people to want to get involved and to give it a go, whilst amplifying their voices in a way that suits them; there’s no dry whitepapers to slog through, neither are there the angst-inducing clickbait articles. Set up in February 2019, by Katrina Judge – with a child-friendly website ( and weekly challenges, it encourages children and families across the country to choose that ‘green mindset’.

Katrina explains; “I felt compelled to convert my feelings into actions and channel my energies into a venture to try and help combat climate change.”

By offering children fun, weekly climate-change related challenges the initiative inspires carbon-busting action around the home, encourages climate change discussion, and sparks creative and imaginative activities in nature.

The team of children and families who subscribe for free (who are affectionately referred to as Young Climate Warriors) are making a positive impact through individual actions, tweaks and lifehacks. The collective power and good-feeling generated by these micro-actions are shared and amplified within their communities, through school assemblies, often featured in local press, and of course celebrated on the YCW social media channels (Instagram: @youngclimatewarriors and Facebook: /youngclimatewarriors).

Speaking from personal experience, my own two children (10 years and 7 years), take great pleasure in planning family meals using locally-produced and in-season vegetables. This was originally inspired by an activity set by Young Climate Warriors in June 2020, and has now become something of a Sunday afternoon ritual as they flick through cookbooks, do a little research on a nearby device, create a colourful meal plan and scribble out shopping lists for the week. This has two major benefits. One, it saves me a job. Two, it gets us chatting and thinking together so we can make the best environmentally friendly decision we can.

Some Young Climate Warriors challenges are easier than others, the ebbs and flows of life mean they don’t always present the easiest option, and we don’t always get it right. Back to the family meal analogy – the produce of the week may not be everyone’s favourite, or the final dish not something any of us think we fancy, it’s not the most convenient option, but we do our best, and we discuss it. The very act of mindfully planning our meals in a sustainable way is both cathartic and it allows us to slow down and think about how we shop and eat.

It’s very real and practical, and it involves the children in such a way that they enjoy ownership and not feel they are being preached to. It’s real, it’s local, it’s immediate and it’s relevant. It’s not crusty grown-ups and politicians talking around a nebulous concept. It helps to connect the dots.

Young Climate Warriors helps to do just that with all of its challenges – connect the dots between the very real effects of climate change and what we do, and can do better in our day-to-day lives. Young Climate Warriors believes that the best way to engage and activate our children is to make it fun and satisfying to be part of the change.

Children always learn by example and early behaviours and beliefs will be ingrained and carried through into adult life. However, by taking part and subscribing to Young Climate Warriors as parents and primary caregivers, we may also learn a thing or two from the children as well.

Why going wild is the answer

By children's health, environment, Green, Mental health, Uncategorized
by Richard Irvine
author of Wild Days and Forest Craft

This very strange year has seen many of us desperate to take whatever opportunities we can to be outdoors, exploring our local neighbourhoods. Wilderness might not always be on the doorstep, but little bits of wild nature can be found everywhere – whether you live in a bustling city or its suburbs, or close to farms, forests or the coast. There are adventures to be had in parks, on city streets, canal tow-paths, riverbanks, beaches, woods, moorland and country walks.

All that is needed is a bit of curiosity, a playful attitude and maybe a tiny bit of know-how. Paying attention to the ordinary and everyday that might have escaped our notice for years, can open the door to tiny adventures close to home. Outdoor play is not just a ‘nice to have’, it is essential for children to experience the world to learn about it and their place in it.

Learning about our neighbour-hood nature connects us to where we live and makes us feel more at home. The more time spent outdoors, the more you notice the patterns of the changing seasons; get to know the sights, sounds and smells of your local wildlife; and enjoy ‘slow time’ as you lose yourself in the fascination of nature. Creativity, resilience and positive attitudes towards the environment and exercise are forged in outdoor play. Understandable fears of busy roads and encounters with strangers can make parents and carers feel anxious about letting their children and young people play out of sight but it is vital that all young people have opportunities for unstructured outdoor adventures.

A simple walk in the park can be transformed into an engaging, playful experience with a mission to collect materials to make natural art or to make a wreath at home. A bit of string and some twigs can be transformed into boats to sail on the pond or canal with ‘jelly baby’ passengers to keep safe and dry if possible. Playing Pooh sticks, racing marbles down a hill and just gazing up at the clouds can turn reluctance into enthusiasm when it comes to getting children outside.

On your wild days out, it is very important to remember that the world is not a playground for humans but the habitat for us and all other living things. At the very least, we should try and leave as little trace of our activities as possible. It would be fantastic if we could leave things in an even better state than we found them and to have a positive impact on our environment.

To be safe in the world, young people need to be allowed to take risks. If they grow up insulated from potential harm, they may find it difficult to assess what is safe or dangerous for themselves and not learn to ask the important “What if…” questions that help us to consider the consequences of our actions and to make good decisions. Some of the best childhood adventures can involve fires, tools and the chance of getting lost, but all can be undertaken safely with trust, practice and common sense. You know your young people and context. My plea is to let them explore, play and experiment under the open skies. Join in alongside or keep an eye from a distance but try to relax, enjoy being outside with them and remember that the benefits of outdoor play and adventure will stand them in good stead for the challenges ahead.

Richard Irvine is a qualified teacher with a love of the outdoors and over 20 years’ experience in the field of outdoor learning. His specialist knowledge of woodlands and practical education comes from a love of the outdoors and many years working for forestry and education organisations. An accomplished greenwood carver, he brings woodcraft into his work wherever possible through progressing children’s skills at Forest School and running professional development workshops and recreational carving days for adults.
He is the author of Wild Days and Forest Craft from GMC Publications. He lives in Devon.


Holiday camps – great for children and parents!

By environment, family, fun for children, Green, Playing, Relationships, Uncategorized

The long school summer holidays are lovely for so many reasons; particularly because you and your children have a break from the school routine. There is time to relax and be less governed by the clock. However, unfortunately most working parents don’t get six weeks off, so finding childcare can be difficult.

Even if you are lucky enough not to actually ‘need’ childcare, children (and parents!) may enjoy some time apart. Children often miss not spending time with people their own age during the holidays; hence the dreaded
“I’m bored” phrase being uttered!

Many parents find holiday clubs or play schemes are the answer. They are very flexible so you can book them for the whole of the working week, or just a couple of days each week, depending on your needs. Most run for similar times to the working day with some time either side to allow you to get to and from work.

They are normally based at schools or leisure centres in the area, as they already have the facilities needed on site and are easily accessible. Some clubs are based around a particular sport or hobby whilst others allow children to do lots of different activities. You may find that due to the better weather in the summer holidays, some are also based at locations that allow children to have fun outside or in the water – but obviously there will always have to be a plan B in case of horrendous weather!

There is a variety of clubs to choose from; some may offer the chance to try lots of different sports and hobbies during the week, whilst others will concentrate on something specific such as drama, football, netball or trampolining. Children may want to enhance the skills they already have in a sport or hobby, or it can be a chance to try something completely new. Younger children may enjoy a variety of sports and crafts during the week, and you may even find one in particular that sparks a new interest that they want to continue, after the summer.

The summer is obviously the best time to try watersports for the first time. Children can learn to windsurf, kayak, sail, or paddle board. If children can learn a new skill it can really increase their self-esteem and confidence, and there can’t be many better things to enjoy in the sun than the thrill of learning a new watersport.

It can be hard to find ways to keep children active and occupied during the summer holidays, whether you are a working parent or not. At holiday clubs children will engage in physical activity and there will virtually be no time in front of screens. Children will be able to participate in a wider variety of activities that they may not normally have access to.

Children who have had friendship problems at school, have a chance to start afresh in a holiday club. They will be with children their own age and they have the chance to make new friends and socialise with children they may not necessarily go to school with. They are likely to increase in confidence as they make new friends, and this can continue when they go back to school as they will undoubtedly be more confident socially.

In addition to the social benefits, children will also learn new skills. Clubs may offer the chance to try things that children have never had opportunity to try before such as handball, trampolining or even archery and they will leave with a positive feeling of accomplishment.

Finally, clubs also provide peace of mind for parents as they know their children are enjoying themselves in a safe environment. As children come to the end of their primary school age they may want to be out by themselves a little bit more, and meet their friends in the park for example, but while they are in a holiday club you know they are safe, happy and having fun.

This summer, more than ever, the most important thing is that children have fun; it is their holiday from school after all! This last year has been stressful for everyone and children have had their own stresses at school, with constant talk of them being ‘behind’ and the need to ‘catch up’. They need this summer to have fun, relax and create new memories, whether that is playing football with new-found friends, rehearsing, and putting on a play, sitting down enjoying some crafts, or learning to paddle board.

There is always great demand for holiday childcare particularly as last year’s summer was so uncertain, so do book your childcare as soon as you can and then relax and enjoy the holidays!



Outdoor adventure is the key to happier, healthier children

By Education, environment, family, fun for children, Green, Health, Playing, Relationships

Spending time outdoors is the key to happier, healthier and more confident children. However, only one in five of them regularly play outside, says leading youth charity YHA (England and Wales).

The charity says that the opportunity to have adventures in the outdoors is vitally important to developing young people’s confidence, resilience and ambition for the future. Studies also show that just five minutes of ‘green exercise’ can improve a child’s mental wellbeing.

To help more young people benefit from the transformational power of travel and adventure, YHA has launched a campaign – The Adventure Effect. It hopes the campaign will inspire young people and their families to get outdoors.

Karen Pine, Professor of Developmental Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, who has supported YHA with the development of The Adventure Effect, said: “If we want to raise children to be healthy physically, mentally, socially and emotionally, we must look at the experiences they’re having during childhood. Outside, spontaneous experiences in nature are critical to their development.”

She explained: “Being unable to get outside for a prolonged period can lead to stress and depression, which sadly besets many people
in our society today. Time outdoors spent having adventures in nature helps to build resilience – which is our ability to bounce back in life. This is an incredibly important skill.” Highlighting the impact of people not having the opportunity to access travel and the outdoors, YHA confined the professional adventurer and author Alastair Humphreys to a room for three days. In contrast, the film also follows five young people during their first trip to the Lake District and demonstrates their personal transformation during that time.

The thought-provoking social experiment has been documented in The Adventure Effect film. Watch the film and learn more about The Adventure Effect at

The film charts Alastair’s increasing frustration and unhappiness at having the opportunity for adventure removed from him. On day
two of the experiment he admits to ‘feeling low’.

Commenting on the social experiment, Alastair said: “I am delighted to support YHA’s Adventure Effect campaign. Being inside the room was a big learning experience for me. Three days seems like nothing but when the ability to go outside whenever you want, and the mental stimulation that goes with it, is taken away from you it is a huge shock. I was really surprised to discover I use my phone too much and use it to fill in any quieter times during the day. I also realised that I take my ability to have adventures – big and small, for granted.”

He added: “Adventure is as much about your attitude as anything else. Be curious and seize the opportunities that are available to you. YHA makes it easy, cheap and accessible for everyone to get their adventure started.”

As part of YHA’s Adventure Effect campaign, adventurer Alastair Humphreys has shared his five tips for people to get their adventure started:
1. Don’t just talk about it. Do it.
2. Do something simple and small, like going for a walk in your local woods or head up a hill.
3. Make sure you’re warm and prepared for bad weather with suitable waterproof clothing.
4. Take friends or family with you so you can share the experience and encourage each other.
5. Making the most of the outdoors shouldn’t be about pushing yourself and feeling miserable. Go at your own pace and have fun.

A nature spring guide for families – where to go locally and what to look out for

By Education, environment, Family Farms, fun for children, Green, play, Playing, Relationships, Sprintime, Summer, Uncategorized
by Andrea Pinnington and Caz Buckingham
Fine Feather Press

Grab your coat, your wellies if it is raining, your family and perhaps a picnic, for the dark days of winter have passed and the spring we have all been waiting for is here. These are a few suggestions, COVID restrictions allowing, for where families can go to enjoy some particularly wonderful spring sights across both Sussex and Surrey, but if there is one thing that our confined lives have taught us, it is that we don’t have to go far or even anywhere further than our doorstep to enjoy the natural world.

Spring flowers
Sussex and Surrey have an abundance of woodlands – here the flowers appear early in the year when the ground has warmed up and it is light. Once the leaves on the trees have come out, the woods become too shady for most flowers to grow. Plants that take full advantage of the brighter spring conditions include wood anemones, bluebells, primroses, common dog-violets and lesser celandines. Of all these, perhaps the bluebell puts on the most impressive display, for few wild flowers cover the ground so completely or smell as sweet. Chinthurst Hill near Wonersh, Brede Hill near Battle, Heaven Farm near Uckfield and Angmering Woods near Arundel, all put on annual bluebell spectaculars along with a medley of other spring flowers.

Orchids have a captivating appeal for many people and to discover one is thrilling. Ditchling Beacon and Malling Down are excellent places to search for them. Look out now for the early purple orchid – its clusters of flowers, long spotted leaves and unpleasant smell help to identify it – and come back in the summer for more orchid spotting.

The prospect of free food is always appealing, and a great family springtime activity is foraging. This is the season of ramsons, otherwise known as wild garlic. The young leaves make deliciously pungent soups, salads and pesto and the flowers, seed pods and bulbs are all edible too. The Downs Link path which runs for 37 miles from Guildford to Shoreham provides a great day out for families on bikes or on foot. Here wild garlic grows in abundance but for other sites, there is a fantastic website called
with an interactive map showing you sources of food growing on common land.

Trees and hedgerows
When winter shows no other sign of ending, along comes the blossom from trees such as blackthorn followed by wild cherry, crab apple, rowan and hawthorn. Every lane puts on its own frothy display for us to enjoy. Get to know where local elder bushes grow, for there is nothing so simple as making elderflower cordial. Another foraging find (maybe not for the children) are the youngest, freshest beech leaves which can be used in salads or soaked in gin. Beech trees are a feature of most of our deciduous woodlands but the ones at Staffhurst Woods near Oxted and Ashdown Forest are particularly fine.

Early in the year, insects emerging from hibernation are desperate for food. Queen bumblebees fly between early nectar sources such as cowslips, red dead-nettles and lesser celandines as do early butterflies such as brimstones and orange-tips feeding on cuckooflowers, honesty and garlic mustard. Surrey and Sussex are rich in places to see butterflies, but particularly good locations include Box Hill, Denbies Hillside, The Devil’s Dyke, Newtimber Hill, Rowland Wood and Pewley Down.

There is no better season for listening to bird song and often the adventures begin by simply opening a window! Every habitat has its own star performers with some having flown vast distances to be with us. If you want to hear some outstanding virtuosos then head to heathlands such as Chobham, Pirbright, and Iping and Stedham Commons. Here you may hear (if not see) buzzy Dartford warblers, melodious willow warblers or perhaps a chirring nightjar or two. Even more discrete than these birds are the nightingale – its drab, brown colouring making it almost impossible to spot in the dense undergrowth it inhabits. Its song, though, is unmistakable and the male sings both day and night until it finds a mate. Make your way to Ebenhoe Common, Pulborough Brooks and Puttenham Common for an unforgettable auditory experience. Make a note of International Dawn Chorus Day which is on Sunday 2nd May this year. Events are usually planned by a range of local wildlife groups.

Reptiles and amphibians
On sunny spring days, the coconut-sweet smell of gorse fills the air and reptiles such as lizards and adders like to bask in the sun. A stroll on Thursley Common’s boardwalks usually reveals some reptilian activity but if none materialise there is usually plenty of other wildlife to watch such as dragonflies and damselflies along with carnivorous plants and cuckoos.

For more information
The best way to find out more about these and other nature hotspots across the counties is to contact our wonderful wildlife charities. Most of these have local branches and are bursting with ideas for family activities and places to explore. Among these are Butterfly Conservation, Plantlife, RSPB, Wildlife Trusts, Woodland Trust and the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust (WWT).

This is merely a quick canter through a handful of experiences on offer outside in Surrey and Sussex this spring. We apologise for all the obvious ones we’ve missed out. We’d love to hear about the ones you cherish and are willing to share on our Facebook page ( and on Twitter (@NatureActivity).

Andrea Pinnington and Caz Buckingham run natural-history publisher Fine Feather Press from their homes in Surrey and East Sussex.
Their latest title – The Little Book of Wild Flowers – is now out.