Introducing the Forest Family Bags
Having a healthy relationship with the outdoors is an absolutely vital part of a child’s life. Outdoor play promotes good health, natural curiosity and environmental awareness, while providing an exciting alternative to more sedentary activities. In a world increasingly saturated with passive entertainment media and electronic distractions, the Forestry Commission want to help kids get back to nature - and families are the focus of our new project, the Forest Family Bag.
Research has shown that play and learning in woodland and green spaces leads to a range of benefits for children’s development, including better concentration, better communication skills, greater stamina, improved balance and coordination, increased confidence, and an appreciation and understanding of the outdoors. Families whose children have this kind of access to outdoor spaces tend to join in, getting the grown-ups out and about in the fresh air as well. The Forest Family Bags are designed to enhance, support and encourage this kind of activity.
Packed and ready to go!
The first Forest Family Bags are being made available to children and families across five local authority areas in central Scotland. A rucksack full of advice, ideas, resources and fun activities to support and encourage safe outdoor play in the woodlands, the bags will be available to borrow through participating kindergartens and nurseries in Glasgow, Renfrewshire, East Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire and Edinburgh who have completed Forestry Commission Scotland’s Forest Kindergarten training. A practical, hands-on course designed to specifically meet the needs of early years staff, this training equips them with the knowledge, understanding and skills to support children in learning through play in local woodlands and greenspaces.
Packed with advice and information for young people and their families, the idea of the project is to equip children with the right tools for safe, enjoyable outdoor play. Items provided in the bags include tarpaulin, pegs and a sitting mat, as well as materials to help children explore using their senses and imagination through a range of fun activities. There are activity sheets to complete, a story book with well-loved forest tales, and even a set of finger puppets. Particularly popular with our testers (pictured below) were the set of binoculars and magnifying bug viewer - allowing kids to get up close with woodland creatures of all sizes.
The bags can be borrowed over a weekend or longer, offering the chance for new adventures for all the family, whether trying to catch a glimpse of elusive forest creatures, building dens, enjoying nature-based arts and crafts, or learning about the dangers and risks to look out for in a woodland setting. As you can see, the bag's contents offer a brilliant way to spark young imaginations!
Into the forest...
“These forest family bags support children in enjoying their local woods alongside their parents,” says Marian Cairns, forest kindergarten officer at Forestry Commission Scotland. “The contents of the bags support understanding, learning and enjoyment. This initiative builds upon our existing training for nursery staff and enhances the benefits of learning in woodlands.”
30 Forest Family Bags have already been given to Forest Kindergarten Early Years Centres and nurseries in Renfrewshire that took part in a pilot scheme, with 300 in total being made available through the 5 participating regions by March 2018. Cath MacKinnon, whose children attend West Johnstone Pre-5 Centre, said: “The bags are great fun and educational. Leo and his older sister now spend much more time in the woods looking for bugs and leaves.”
Pictures: (1) Leo McKinnon age 3, goes exploring with friends (2) Leon Maben and Sophie Jackson, both age 4, play with the Forest Family Bags
Photos: Mark F. Gibson / Gibson Digital