Wild Family Fun

Tales of living, working and enjoying life in the outdoors


My Sunday Photo

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I’m so lucky that my daughter gets to come with me on my Forest Schools sessions.

It’s the perfect place for her to be.

Here she is enjoying a toasted marshmallow squashed between two chocolate biscuits.

What else would you do when you have a lovely open outdoor camp fire!

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Half-term Outdoor Fun

Half-term holidays are great for my work, as the children we deliver activities to have all day to be in the outdoors with us.

We can have longer outdoor activities and adventures, and so we decided to use a whole day of Forest Schools activities for our group on the Monday of the half-term. We use a local woodlands near to Cardiff so; along with my daughter, my sister joined us with her two boys, who were all so excited to take part.

We donned our wellies and waterproofs, (ready for the mud and the puddles), and carried our equipment to our little hide-away area at Cosmeston Lakes near Penarth. The first priority was to build a shelter as it was due to rain, and it’s always good to have a “dry” area for bags, equipment and lunch.

We had a variety of activities planned, and the children loved having the ability to choose what they wanted to play with. They loved having wild freedom and soon dumped their bags and were off playing in mixed groups.

We made tree monsters from clay, made dens from tarpaulins and string, hunted for a variety of bugs, (observing how and where they lived), made bows and arrows, waded up the nearby stream, (splashing each other along the way), made a make-shift swing with a rope and two trees, and toasted marshmallows with the fire from our Kelly Kettle. It was great to see how the generational gap was filled, as all the children and adults played together.

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New friends were made and hands got dirty and everyone had so much fun.

We were all disappointed when it was time to go. It was a fantastic start to the holidays, and my sister said she was amazed that (apart from her packed lunch) the day didn’t cost her a penny and her boys had the best day ever.

So much so that they wanted to join us on our next activity the following day!!

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I really do enjoy our Forest School days. Everyone involved has so much fun, and it’s a great excuse for me to eat lots of toasted marshmallows!

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A muddy, wet forest…… what’s not to love ??!!

{Sadly I am unable to post images of the children I work with, all images are of my daughter and my nephews from todays adventures.}

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Learning for Life



Is “Risk” a Benefit within Play?

I’ve wanted to write this post for a long time and, after completing my Forest School training, I now feel suitably qualified and confident enough to talk about “risk” within play.

My training covered so much about why risk is important within play, how we can manage risk, the value of risk assessments (a vast and lengthy topic), and what are the benefits of “risk” within play. For someone like me, who’s worked in play and outdoor pursuits for many years, it can be easier for me to accept that risk is a part of play, and that children need it to develop many important skills.

I’m comfortable with my daughter taking risks. We mange her adventurous nature. We teach her about appropriate behaviour and boundaries. I feel she’s developed a safe and responsable attitude to risk-taking. She knows how far she can climb up a tree and what branches are safe to take her weight. She understands when that, we go kayaking, Mum is there if she falls out and because she has on a buoyancy aid, she’ll pop up to the surface and I’ll be there to keep her safe. I believe these are important life skills for the future.

But what are the benefits of risk within play?

Children develop their emotions and intelligence through play. It offers a chance to enhance a variety of important developmental needs such as emotional development, social interaction, physical improvements, confidence skills, as well as communication and language skills. And that’s just a small example of what play opportunities and play experience offers to children.

Risk will always be a factor in most forms of play.

It can be a scary word to use. When working for a Local Authority, it means that it is easy to become caught up in lots of red tape, when trying to convince people and parents that allowing children to engage in well-managed risky play is a benefit. I wish that I had a penny for each time I’ve had a conversation with a parent, who vehemently says “My son is not going out for a walk in the woods as it’s too dangerous”.

Of course, (as with all things in life), there will always be a danger. However, our activities are always risked-assessed, and there are always a minimum of 2 well-trained, vigilant and responsable staff present. We provide appropriate outdoor kit and clothing, and (really) why would I let anything happen to a child under my care. I wouldn’t accept any misfortune to a child as an outdoor worker, or as a parent. Luckily, the majority of parents we work with trust us, and know us well enough to accept that their children will be well looked after when they’re out on an activity with us and, most importantly, those children will be safely supervised while they have fun, being left to their own imagination!

What we’ve found, in recent months, is the heightened level of health and safety, and risk assessment that we must go through, in order to show how well we have assessed our activities. We constantly re-assess those qualifications needed to run any activity and, as professionals, we continually look at every aspect and potential danger, in order to ensure that all our activities are as safe as they can be.

However, I understand why we have to do this, (and to complete mountains of paperwork), as it protects us, and the people that we take out on various activities. Sometimes, I do wonder when will risk assessments, and the “cotton-wool” society in which we live, stop worrying quite so much.

As my father keeps telling me, it’s not like it was in the 70’s, when kids played in the streets ’til dark, came home when they were hungry, and we all looked out for our youngsters. But, we can, (and do), do our best to keep that spirit alive, albeit within “managed risk” activities.

My Forest School Adventures

It’s been a very busy time, running my Forest Schools sessions. I’ve been trying to get ready for my assessment, but it’s given me such a variety of outdoor experiences and adventures that I never would have predicted. It’s been great!

This week, I had a lovely experience with one of the boys from the group, and I’d love to share it. The activity was ‘Tree Faces’.

For this activity, all the children have is a ball of clay. They have to create a face on one of the trees in the forest. They can use twigs, fallen leaves, stones (etc) to decorate their faces, but we introduce a rule of “no use of living plants or trees” for the activity. This develops the learners’ sense of respecting nature. This is such a lovely activity where children can work with a partner, or on their own, and just take some quiet time to develop their own, individual creative skills.

A selection of our masterpieces!

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All the children created wonderful faces on the trees, and I had a lovely time wandering around looking at them and chatting to the children. I asked them about their ideas and influences for their pieces of art.

My favourite part was talking to one particular boy. He’s getting so much out of Forest School. He jumps on the bus, so very excitedly each week, and I can’t believe how his imagination seems to grow with every activity. After taking a photograph of his creation, he came up with a wonderful ‘Tree Faces’ story that was an amazing example of his imagination.

Meet Frank….

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 ‘Frank is a tree monster that lives at Forest School all the time. When we go home, Frank stays there so that he can watch and protect the forest. When horrible people sneak in at night-time, Frank will make scary noises and shout really loud. His blue eyes light up and frighten the horrible people who leave the litter and don’t tidy up after themselves. When they have gone, Frank turns nice. He talks to the birds and all the animals who live in the forest. He watches them to make sure they are safe and is there in case they can’t find their way home. He loves it when we come to Forest School, because he loves seeing all the children play nicely and he knows he doesn’t have to shout, as we tidy up after ourselves and never mess up the Forest.’

This was the lovely story he told me about his tree face. He was able to create such a wonderful story with just a little bit of clay, some natural resources and some free time.

The difficulty in promoting Forest Schools (and the ethos of the setting) is that some people mistake it for just playing in the woods.

They don’t fully understand the learning that comes when children take part in the sessions. This activity could be used as a tool back in the classroom to develop a childs creative writing. The child that I spoke to had the start of a brilliant story, and he came up with it all by himself. When we returned to the woods for the next session, he went straight over to Frank, asked how he was and was everything ok in the forest. It was amazing to see, in a child that has difficulty in a “traditional” classroom setting.

Clay tree faces…. a simple, but effective, activity that sparked the wonderful imagination of everyone……. and speaks to us all.

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Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Learning for Life
Mini Creations



A piece of wood and some string!

To help me qualify as a Forest Schools Leader, I’m currently running six practical Forest School sessions with the children from a local Primary school. The sessions aim to provide a variety of learning experiences, including outdoor arts and crafts. This week, the activity was to combine woodland crafts with an introduction to the use of tools.

To achieve this, we made individual Forest Schools medals!

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To start the medals off, I cut small discs of wood using a bow saw before the session, and the children would use a gimlet (which is a type of hand-held device) to make a hole at the top for the string to be threaded through. This helps to introduce tool use in gradual and manageable steps.

Making sure we wore gloves and that we worked on a secure surface, the children couldn’t believe that such a small tool would go through the wood to make a hole. First, we marked the area with a cross. Then by pushing down and twisting at the same time, we created a cork screw effect and the hole started to appear.

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With very little effort and determination the children were able to twist all the way through. They were amazed and really very happy when they had made a neat hole all the way through the piece of wood.

Next came the drawing and design of their own medals. Each would be totally special and uniquely individual.

When we added the string, a brilliant and very individual wood craft medal was created by each child to take home in celebration of their day’s woodland activities!

This was an activity that took only 30 minutes, but seeing all the children going back to school in the mini bus, each proudly showing off their medals hanging from their necks really was a lovely, happy and satisfying sight.

A very simple but effective teaching-activity and, of course, I had to make one as well!

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And here it is!!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Learning for Life
Mini Creations

Country Kids – Learning Outdoors

I wanted to do a slightly different post for Country Kids this week.

I’ve finally completed my training for Forest Schools Leader Level 3 over the past few weeks, and it’s been the most interesting course that I’ve taken part in.

To offer a bit of background info, Forest Schools is a child-led learning initiative that supports the curriculum. It focuses on the child, their holistic learning and personal development. It’s a hands on approach to learing, and is all taught with the individual at the centre. The learning is set in a woodlands outdoor environment and a range of learning activities are offered, to be freely chosen by the child. It really isn’t about the adults leading the way. The adults are very important, but their role is to facilitate the childs’ learning and development.

Small achievable tasks are set, so that children can feel empowered by actually achieving and accomplishing tasks set for them. This also allows for a setting that increases emotional development and social well-being.

We learnt about the history of Forest Schools. Initially created in Sweden in 1985, it was further developed in Britain in 1993 through Bridgewater College. It has since evolved and in 2012 the Forest Schools Association rolled out nationwide in the UK.

This shows that the learning and development of children in the outdoors is not a recent idea. The training was fantastic, and it only enforced my belief in the importance of outdoor education and wild experiences for children and young people even more.

We discussed various issues, such as emotional intelligence and how it should be developed in a Forest Schools setting. We learned about play theories and those theorists who’ve developed the importance of play over many the years. We went through ecological impacts, what we do while spending time in the woods and forests, and how to limit our impact on the environment. We looked at risk assessments, how to manage risks and yet still allow managed-risk accessible to children. We discussed the history of British woodlands, and also the flora & fauna found in the sites where we work.

There really was so much to learn, not just how to play in the woods!! It was such a fantastically interesting training course and, although very intense, it gave me so much to think about.

Our time was divided between lessons in the classroom, and time learning outside. This was great for me as, by midday, I tend to get a bit twitchy and struggle to sit still. I enjoyed the opportunity to get outside and take part in some hands-on learning using a range of interesting and slightly large forest-tools, which helped me to make some wonderful craft objects.

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The reason why I wanted to share this slightly different Country Kids post, was to express that the more time I spend with children and young people in the outdoors, the more I see a huge reason for the education system to include outdoor learning as an integrated part of the curriculum.

If anyone has seen the film “Project Wild Thing”, it simply enforces the thinking and logic behind Forest Schools. The film explains how children from the Western world have been identified as having low self-esteem, issues with obesity and depression, largely attributable to the proven data that children in our modern society don’t have the experiences of being in the outdoors, as much as those children of generations past.

I see the positive results first-hand, when I work with a lot of young people who simply cannot cope in mainstream education for a variety of reasons. These young people have been classed as disruptive and non academic but, when taking part in outdoor activities with my team, and given the opportunity to learn in the outdoors, they become happier and more confident people. I have witnessed a whole range of truly wonderful things, such as taking young people to a beach for the first time, seeing them stomping through the woods, feeling free and happy because they’re not confined within a classroom. My Forest Schools training has really enhanced this idea, and it’s given me so much confidence as an outdoor pursuit worker (and as a parent) who believes that a childhood for my daughter should be rich all types of outdoor experiences.

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I haven’t finished my training yet. I’ll have to deliver 6 sessions with a group of local school-children aged 8 – 9 years old. It’s going to be very exciting and the children all get the afternoon out of school. They shouted and jumped for joy when their teacher told them the news!! I have to observe and monitor how the children develop through the sessions, and I also have a huge folder of written course-work to complete, which includes essays, risk assesments and full descriptions of of the woodland environment of my chosen Forest School site.

Lots of late nights, and suddenly feeling like I’m back in school, I think!!

It really was a brilliant course, and I’m enjoying the prospect of the up-coming outdoor training. The reason why I’ve chosen to include this as my post for Country Kids this week is because, as parents, we should all try to give our children lots of happy memories and experiences. By taking part in this Forest Schools training, I really believe that it’s a huge benefit to their childhood.

With very little effort, we can provide lots of outdoor fun for kids which mixes learning and development with some wonderful family memories that everyone can cherish.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Learning for Life