Kindergartens in the forest are becoming popular: children can have fun outside in any weather

Kindergarten in the forest is popular
Where kids can enjoy outside in any weather

Learning outdoors, doing crafts, discovering nature: Kindergartens in the forests make it all possible and fashionable. Playing outdoors also reduces the risk of infection during a pandemic.

Morning hilltop tour: The area is covered with fallen foliage. Children eagerly swing on tree trunks that serve as a seat. The teacher greets everyone in the circle and wants to read a story. “do you want to?” Loudly “Yes!” It echoes through the woods among the chirping of birds.

In forest kindergartens like here in Budingen in the state of Hesse, children spend a lot of time in nature, and such facilities are growing in popularity all over Germany – especially in the time of Corona. The youngsters now listen to the story very closely. Some of the children are new to the forest kindergarten called “beginners” and look curiously into the faces of others. “The family can also get used to things,” says Director Jutta Schaffert. But the children quickly got used to the environment.

Children play on a simple self-assembled swing.

(Photo: dpa)

After the morning circuit ends, follow the last instructions, and shortly thereafter all the kids jump out of their seats and splash out into the woods – the fun can begin. Schaffert has known the Woodland Kindergarten since its establishment in 2001. Like most, it was brought up on the initiative of the parents. The former nurse and mother of three decided to stay faithful to the kindergarten and train her as a teacher. The 56-year-old has been part of the squad since 2012.

The concept of woodland kindergarten comes from Scandinavia, with Denmark in particular being a pioneer. According to the Federal Association of Nature and Forest Kindergartens in Germany (BvNW), there are about 2,000 such facilities throughout the country, four years ago there were about 500 less. According to the Ministry of Social Affairs, about 160 of about 4,500 day care centers in Hesse are forest or nature kindergartens.

Walking, collecting trash, building strollers

At least two professionals and one trainee care for children aged three to six for newcomers. However, this is only the minimum. “Basically, more staff would be helpful and desirable,” says Gisela Stoll-Krone, president of the State Association of Nature and Forest Kindergartens in Hesse. They do not have to be highly qualified forestry teachers. One additional specialist is enough to strengthen the group.

The special thing about kindergarten in the woods: the kids are outdoors in all weathers. This also strengthens the immune system. The group walks through the forest twice a week. According to Schaffert, kids love to build teepees from the branches around them. Teachers also teach children to keep their environment clean. Therefore, the scattered garbage is collected. They also do this several times a year during cleaning campaigns.

The group does not withdraw to its little hut unless there are warnings of storms or thunderstorms. This is a converted red wagon for newcomers. There you will find changing clothes, games, crafts and books. “Other than that, we’re outside in wind and weather,” Shavert explains. “Even in winter, but not for long.” You don’t need much for this: warm clothes, weather-resistant shoes, a hat and scarf for the cold season. Far from the children playing, lies a small red box with a hole. It serves as a kind of toilet for children. Parents had requested a portable toilet cubicle, Schaffert said with a smile. The compromise with the little box now gives girls the chance to sit down when they feel stressed.

15 years without using the toilet

She has been without a toilet for more than 15 years. “Then we hid something similar in the woods, where holes were dug in the ground for big business.” According to Schaffert, the fact that there is a public wildlife park nearby, which attracts many people in the summer, also spoke against Dixie Close. When the weather is good, the risk of drunken teens littering or knocking on such a toilet is too great. That is why we decided to reject it.

Basically, kids play with everything the forest has to offer. Some make mandalas from leaves, sticks and stones, others use tools. There are rounded carving knives. Saws and hammers can also be used. It is important for children to learn from their mistakes.

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Children train their motor skills while climbing. Accidents are rare in kindergarten in the woods.

(Photo: dpa)

Basically, very few accidents happen in the forest, as the Federal Association for Nature and Kindergarten emphasizes on its website. Thanks to the many outdoor activities, children become more secure in their motor skills and learn to better assess challenges. “You walk more safely on uneven ground and don’t stumble on every rootstock,” the association said. In addition, children’s perception of the special conditions of the forest improves and they learn to evaluate their own limits.

If children climb a tree with the offspring of Bodinger, they do it alone. “This is the only way to learn how to do it,” Schaffert says. The worst thing in 20 years was a broken arm. Schaffert says that parents consciously send their children to kindergarten in the woods. In the meantime, the children settled comfortably. You eat – and listen to the chirping of birds and the rustle of leaves.

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