11 Forest School Activities (Outdoor Learning Activities)

11 Forest School Activities (Outdoor Learning Activities)

Playing offers children numerous developmental benefits, encompassing physical, social, cognitive, and emotional aspects, providing them with motivation and practice in each of these domains. While creative play is possible in any environment other than the outdoors, recent findings indicate that the outdoor environment holds a special place in enhancing the quality, duration, and frequency of creative play.

In recent years, much greater attention has been given to natural spaces. The experience of going through the COVID pandemic has emphasized the importance of proper ventilation in children’s growth spaces. The pandemic has shown us that the transmission of contagious diseases decreases in open spaces, making it essential for the safety of children to be present in outdoor environments.

Aside from the discussion on diseases, the significance of nature and its profound impact on the spirit and psyche of individuals is undeniable. Play and learning environments for children are no exception to these principles. Therefore, considering the importance of outdoor activities, especially creative outdoor learning activities, this article examines eleven forest school activities that take place in forest or nature schools nowadays.

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     If you are interested in this topic, you can also read

     <<What Is Forest School?>> and  <<Benefits of Forest Schools>> articles.

    children in forest school

    What is A Forest School?

    A Forest School is a space within the forest where all educational activities take place in the natural environment of the forest. Forest schools focus on fostering a positive relationship between children and the natural environment. This system believes that nature is the child’s teacher, and the forest school is a place where the rustling of leaves, the sound of wind, raindrops, snowflakes, and the warmth of the sun in some way influence the child’s spirit and mind, teaching them valuable lessons.

    What Are Natural Outdoor Environments?

    Natural outdoor environments refer to places with trees, grass, and other plant coverings. Additionally, these environments consist of various natural materials such as rocks, branches, and leaves for children to interact with and explore.

    Outdoor Learning Activities for kids

    The Importance Of Natural Outdoor Environments

    Incorporating learning centers in outdoor spaces has multiple benefits: it provides children with more options for play, increases their engagement time, and enhances the overall appeal of playing in an outdoor setting. The development of children’s empathy, their sensitivity to wildlife, their grasp of cause-and-effect relationships, and their sense of interconnectivity are all fostered by creative play in natural settings, making the world a more peaceful and sustainable place.

    From an environmental perspective, playing in nature nurtures a love for natural environments, increasing children’s affinity towards respecting and caring for the environment. Children become fascinated by living creatures, especially animals; they pick flowers, dip their hands in water and sand, and engage in exploratory digging to uncover natural treasures in flowers and soil.

    Considering the importance of outdoor learning activities and natural environments, we intend to examine some of the best forest school activities.

    kid in nature school

    Forest School Activities

    1) Climbing Trees or Rope 

    When children are given the opportunity to test their physical abilities, such as climbing trees, they can also gauge their bravery and build self-confidence. These types of forest school activities contribute to the child’s physical health and growth. During climbing and descending movements and active play, large muscles are exercised, balance, coordination, and endurance are strengthened, and fine motor skills are improved. Additionally, these activities help prevent childhood obesity.

    a child climbing a tree

    2) Lighting a Fire

    Fire is a fascinating phenomenon for kids; they love exploring it as much as possible. By doing this forest school activity, children learn how fire is ignited, how it impacts the surrounding environment, and how it is extinguished. This outdoor learning activity teaches children to regulate their enthusiasm, excitement, and emotional growth.

    kids and fire

    3) Sand Play

    Extensive research has revealed the benefits of playing with sand. Sand play is one of the great outdoor learning activities that contributes to a child’s growth in several ways:

    1. It strengthens both fine and gross motor muscles.
    2. A child’s sense of touch is stimulated during sand play through various stimuli, such as the texture of sand, water, heat, and the coolness of the sand.
    3. Sand play not only creates an independent play space but also provides opportunities for social play in the presence of other children.

    Sand creates a pristine space for a child to create different things using their creativity. In this type of play, children create specific scenarios and propositions about the nature of their imaginative world and then continue playing based on these assumptions and logical reasoning.

    children playing with sands

    4) Playing With Animals

    Unlike adults, who tend to care for animals for their benefit, children value animals purely for their intrinsic worth. Numerous studies indicate that children deeply love animals and extend this love to other living beings, such as plants and nature.

    When children are encouraged to care for animals, they display greater sensitivity towards others compared to their peers. Therefore, children’s love for animals helps them develop a sense of responsibility. Spending time with animals boosts a child’s self-esteem, teaches them social interaction, and even aids cognitive development.

    forest school activates : playing with animals

    5) Water Play

    When describing the benefits of water play for kids, it can be said that water games are one of the best forest school activities that can enhance coordination among a child’s body parts. In fact, water play helps a child become absorbed in the moment. Additionally, during water play, children experience different emotions. Water play eliminates psychological tension and consequently creates a sense of tranquility in children.

    water play as an outdoor learning activity

    6) Discovering Insects And Bugs

    In natural outdoor spaces, children become familiar with various living creatures. Even if they are not actively seeking to discover them, they encounter them on the ground, beneath the soil, and on plant leaves. As a result, they become curious about learning more about them and gain knowledge about their habitat, feeding habits, and role in nature. Children who spend time in natural outdoor environments develop a greater sensitivity towards protecting different species of animals and take steps towards their conservation.

    watching the insects

    7) Planting Vegetation

    E.O. Wilson, a renowned biologist, introduced the concept of “biophilia” after years of research and study. Biophilia refers to the positive feelings humans have towards living beings. The hypothesis of biophilia suggests an inherent and instinctive bond between humans and other living organisms. 

    We, as humans, are connected to living creatures, and this inclination begins from early childhood and flows within our cultural and social patterns. This hypothesis helps us explain why ordinary individuals care for domestic and wild animals and even risk their own lives to protect them, as well as why they cultivate plants and maintain them in and around their homes.

    Planting Vegetation is one of the enjoyable forest school activities that children engage in outdoor spaces. They are curious to understand how their consumed fruits and vegetables are produced. Through planting, they witness and experience the various stages of a plant’s growth, from seed to full-fledged plant, in a tangible way.

    kids and plants

    8) Handicrafts

    The materials used in forest schools primarily consist of natural elements. For example, leaves and other plant materials are used for coloring a picture or creating a collage, and wood is used to construct paths or bridges instead of cement blocks. When selecting components for handicrafts, both the diversity and complexity of materials should be considered. Natural materials such as pieces of wood, leaves, stones, seeds, grass, flowers, seed pods, shells, and the like are ideal for fostering creative play. Combining all these materials provides an appropriate foundation for creating various handicrafts for children.

    handicraft games

    9) Group Games

    Natural outdoor spaces provide unique opportunities for children to engage in games that may not be feasible indoors. Outdoor spaces constantly change and impose fewer limitations on children, making them ideal settings for group play. Children can participate in various group games with a carefree imagination and maximum physical and mental capacity, enhancing their social growth.

    Group games

    10) Building Forest Shelters

    How did our ancestors survive in nature? How did they protect themselves from wild animals, wind, rain, and snow? Finding answers to these questions is intriguing for most children. Children can build different structures with the guidance of adults and using natural materials such as stones, branches, and tree trunks. Construction-based play is an amazing outdoor learning activity that lets children strive to create what they have in mind or imagination. This type of play nurtures their capacity and talent for imagination and provides a platform for the development of logical thinking.

    forest school activities : building a shelter

    11) Dramatic Play

    Dramatic play stimulates children’s socio-emotional interaction and creativity in various ways. Moreover, it helps children understand themselves and others, fostering the emergence and growth of important skills such as collaborative work, negotiation and compromise, sharing, prediction, and inference.

    dramatic play of kids


    In his book “Last Child in the Woods,” Richard Louv states, “If a child does not have direct and independent connection with nature, they will likely not develop a love for it and will not vote to protect nature and endangered species in the future.”

    Nature evokes a wide range of emotions and feelings in children. Wonder, satisfaction, pleasure, and undoubtedly other things like challenges, fears, and anxieties. From the perspective of growth and maturation, all these emotions and feelings accompanying a child’s natural experience are valuable for learning and development. 

    Nature provides an endless source of stimuli for children. Nature is a fundamental need for every human being and plays a crucial role in the growth and formation of childhood. Today’s children are more deprived of natural play spaces than ever before. For that reason, we must give forest school activities more consideration. By allowing children to conduct outdoor learning activities, we can foster the growth and blossoming of their creativity.

    If you have any experience regarding this topic, please share your experiences and views in the comments section below.

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    • Mahboube_Golfeshani

      I'm Mahboubeh Golfeshani, an agricultural engineering graduate. I love children and nature topics. I'm currently working as a facilitator in forest schools.

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