Friday, October 14, 2011

What to do in the Forest

Making trips to the forest with kids, besides being loads of fun, is essential to their physical and spiritual development.  If you live in a big city like I do, you might have to do a little planning to get there, but it will be well worth your time.

What do you do once you get there?  Well, several years ago I would have asked exactly the same question, and I am happy to pass on some ideas that I have gleaned from my own experience with kids, the Naturkindergarten ("Nature Kindergarten") that my daughter attends, and from the internet. In German, there is even a word for educating children in a playful way about the forest: Waldpädagogik ("Forest Pedagogy").

1. Read a book or tell a story. Bring a blanket to sit on, hang out, and every story will be more exciting in the great outdoors. Fairy tale or mystery, they only get better outside. The forest can also be a great place to tell a Godly Play or Young Children in Worship story as well. 

2. Build something!  Honestly, that idea used to intimidate me, but then I discovered it's really easy. There is building material all around and the children usually have great ideas once you get started.  Fairy houses and landscapes for toy animals are great things to begin with.  Twigs turn into a hut, acorn caps turn into bowls, leaves become carpets, etc.  The possibilities are endless! Just today I saw a child take two fallen leaves, attach them to her wooden bear and transform him into a "flying bear".

My son and daughter hard at work building a shelter of sorts with large sticks.
3. Collect things for a nature table or art project.  Especially in autumn, the natural treasures are endless. Add a little color to your home with them. They make wonderful collage and sculpture pieces as well. 

4. Play "Find something . . ." In this game, you make a list of adjectives like "smooth", "shiny", or "slimy". Write them on slips of paper and have the children draw a slip.  Then, they have to find something that fits that description. This idea from Gerd Weitbrecht is in a Waldpädagogik download, and if you can read German, this is a treasure chest of good ideas. 

5. Draw a "listening map". Have the children sit down in the forest and spend five minutes drawing  the different sounds they hear and where they think they are coming from. This is another great idea from Gerd Weitbrecht's Waldpädagogik download as well. 

6. Catch bugs. And then let them go, of course! What kid isn't thrilled over a beetle or caterpillar?

7. See how many colors you can find.  Caro at Naturkinder plays this game often with her nature group and her photos are stunning. 

8. Make a nature journal or draw something.  It only takes a second to pack some colored pencils and drawing boards. Children discover in a deeper way when they draw something they have observed.

9. Make land art. Natural materials provide the opportunity to make something beautiful that is temporary and to be savored in that moment. For some wonderful ideas, see Land Art for Kids. One of my goals in the future is to tell a Godly Play story outdoors and have the kids make land art during the creative phase to process their thoughts.

Snail paradise / art project: this wasn't made in the forest, but you get the idea!

For lots more ideas, take a look at these blogs that I have come to love: Marghanita and Naturkinder!


  1. what a great post! there are so many things to do outdoors! simple things that are so much fun and bring children (and adults!) closer to nature. thank you for your words. and for linking. best regards!

  2. I love these ideas! 'Draw a listening map' - I would never have come up with that on my own.
    Thank you so much ღ

  3. @ Hinterland Mama - So glad that you found something new!