I always feel that there is something so magical about being outdoors with children. Of course, I cannot speak for all children, but mine certainly come alive. Their movements are bigger and bolder, their language becomes richer, they are coworkers like never before, loyal, trusting and fearless, they dash up trees and build forts; above all, their smiles are broader.
One of our favourite places to play is in a forest or woods. We took a trip to the Forest of Dean last summer and it remains one of our very favourite holidays. There is always something to do when surrounded by trees and wood and nature; and if you’re ever stuck for ideas, just ask a child! Their imaginative play is packed full of more creativity than ever before when captivated by nature. They explore new sensory and messy play activities whilst learning and talking about all they are seeing and doing, really absorbing the experience in its entirety.
I chose my daughter’s nursery on the basis of its outdoor space and forest school, believing that children learn best when allowed to explore the world for themselves, not sat at desks copying letters or memorising facts robotically. Unfortunately, when it came to being allocated a school placement, we weren’t given our first choice, which has an onsite forest school; rather a small school with no outside green space to call its own whatsoever. However, it is a lovely school in many ways and both children are very happy there, so we use our free time to inject nature into their lives wherever possible.
One revelation has been The Outdoors Project, which offers holiday and after school clubs, fun activities and even party packages. During the Easter holidays, my children were invited to try out one of their sessions, which ran from 10am until 2:30pm at a cost of £28 per child. Packed full of adventure and energy-busting fun and games, they both had an absolute blast and we were happy to leave them, safe in the knowledge that our preferred forest school ethos was being implemented and nurtured in our absence.
Children from ages 5-12 are welcomed and need to take water bottles, a packed lunch, and suitable clothing (they will get muddy!). My two have already said that they would love to go back in the summer, and I would be interested in them doing a couple of sessions too. I do think that the cost of the club could be prohibitively expensive if you are looking for regular childcare – personally, I could not afford £280 to see my children through a full half term, for example – and the club hours are not really suited to this either. However, if you are looking for a good alternative to traditional playschemes, The Outdoors Project are well worth investigating.
The after school clubs that are run by the company are potentially a lot more practical as a childcare option, running for an hour after school hours in various locations. Unfortunately, our school is not currently included in the list of participants, though I have suggested to the PTA that signing up be explored as a possibility as I believe that all children really do benefit from exposure to forest school modules and activities.
Overall, we are impressed with The Outdoor Project as a safe place for children to test boundaries and get up close with nature whilst having buckets of fun. For a family who are often outdoors anyway, our need for such a provision may not be so great, but for those parents who would love their children to reconnect with nature but are unsure how to show by example, this club could be a real game changer.
We received one free holiday club session for the purposes of this review; all opinions are our own.