Children and families across five local authority areas in central Scotland are set to benefit from 300 Forestry Commission Scotland Forest Family Bags, which will enable families to borrow a rucksack full of advice, ideas, resources and fun activities to support and encourage safe outdoor play in the woodlands.
Glasgow, Renfrewshire, East Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire and Edinburgh nurseries who have completed Forestry Commission Scotland’s Forest Kindergarten training and are actively following the Forest Kindergarten programme will receive their bags by the end of March 2018.
The rucksacks include advice and information for families while visiting their local woodland area, as well as tools to support outdoor play including tarpaulin, pegs and a sitting mat. The bags also enable children to explore using their senses and imagination, through a range of fun activities, including activity sheets, a story book, finger puppet, binoculars, bug viewer and magnifying glass.
Marian Cairns, forest kindergarten officer at Forestry Commission Scotland, said: “Forestry Commission Scotland is committed to extending the responsible use of woodlands and green spaces. These forest family bags support children in enjoying their local woods alongside their parents. 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.
Rona Murray, pre-five enhanced nursery officer of West Johnstone Pre-5 Centre, said: “We’re delighted that the Forest Family Bags will be rolled out to other nurseries and early years centres in central Scotland. We were part of the pilot scheme and were passionate about getting the bag right on a practical level for families. We find the bags are a great additional resource that we can offer out to our families, so the children can continue their outdoor learning outside of nursery hours. We hope other nurseries and Early Years Centres find the bag useful.”
Families of children who attend an Early Years Centre or nursery will be able to borrow the Forest Family Bag and venture off into the woodlands and use the bag at their leisure.
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.”
The Forest Kindergarten training course is a practical, hands-on course designed to specifically meet the needs of early years staff and equips them with the knowledge, understanding and skills to support children in learning through play in local woodlands and greenspaces, Forestry Commission Scotland started developing their forest kindergarten programme in 2009. It promotes the use of woodlands as a learning environment, offering young children frequent play in woodlands or other natural settings throughout the year in almost all weathers. The programme involves a range of activities, including exploring for bugs, tracking animals, building dens, arts and crafts and learning about the dangers and risks to look out for in a woodland setting.
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 appreciation and understanding of the outdoors. A ‘ripple’ effect also occurs as families then choose to access outdoor spaces more frequently. The forest family bags are designed to enhance this benefit.
For more information on Forestry Commission Scotland’s Forest Kindergarten training course, contact Marian Cairns at firstname.lastname@example.org
Image: Leon Maben age 4 ,Sophie Jackson age 4 play with the Forest packs.
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