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Five activities to try with kids in a forest


Becky Wilkinson Photo

Becky Wilkinson, our Staffordshire Teaching Trees Education and Teacher Training Officer, delivers sessions for school groups and training for teachers in using woodlands for outdoor learning. She is a qualified teacher and forest school leader with experience of senior leadership, teacher training and as a teaching and learning advisor.

She says “I love having the opportunity to work with children in the forest and see the benefits that it brings to them. Freedom to explore with all their senses and to learn about the world around them as they experience it.”

Find out more about Teaching Trees in England and Wales here or contact Becky

Forests are great places to visit at any age and there is a growing amount of research showing how beneficial they can be to our health, as well as being an environment for learning. When we’re learning in a forest all of our senses are engaged in helping us to build lasting memories. Have a go at the activities below with primary school aged children in a forest and let us know how you get on with forest learning!

1. Odd One Out

Equipment – none

A great quick activity that extends thinking for any age group. Send your children out to find something in the forest that interests them. It might be something that they can pick up and bring back or just something that they can then talk about when they come back to the gathering circle. Put them into groups of four to six and ask them to describe what they’ve found to the rest of their group. Once they’ve all taken a turn can they decide which of their things is the odd one out and why? If this wouldn’t work well for your children individually, send them out in groups. Can each group find something of interest to then report back on to the class. Perfect for developing negotiation and discussion skills when a group have to decide on one thing of interest!

2. Visual Mapping

Equipment – large sheet or tarpaulin, ropes / hoops

A longer variation on the “find something interesting” theme of the Odd One Out activity. This time it does need to be something that they can carry back to the gathering circle so you will need to have a discussion before sending them out on whether they can / cannot pick leaves, what is safe to carry and what they should not touch. When they’ve brought their item back they should place it on the sheet for everyone to see. Once everyone has looked at the items can they sort them into groups? What do these things have in common? Do any of the groups overlap? They might want to use sticks to create mindmap style links or ropes or hoops can be used to create a Venn diagram. When they’ve put things in common groups can they decide on a name for their categories? You might wish to label the categories with pieces of paper or chalks straight onto your sheet. Take a camera with you to record their thinking.

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3. Barefoot Trail

Equipment – tuff trays, towels, storybook

The story “We’re going on a Bear Hunt” by Michael Rosen is one of my favourite children’s books and is engaging wherever it is read but nowhere more so than in a forest. This activity is best suited to private or school based forests rather than public land as there will be less risk of hazards on the forest floor. Children love the opportunity to act out the story and take their socks and shoes off to squelch in the thick, oozy mud or splash through the river. Either wait for a rainy day or take some tuff trays out with you and get splashing!

4. Pooh Sticks

Equipment – none

The classic game of pooh sticks is fun at any age if you’ve got a stream in your forest. Which sticks are going to win the race? What affects their speed?

I don’t currently have access to a stream in my forest so we’ve been experimenting with dry pooh sticks with some of our youngest groups. Whose log will roll the furthest down the bank? Lots of fun, great discussions about size, shape, texture, weight and great exercise when they have to collect all the logs that have been rolled down the bank for the next turn.

5. The squirrel game

Equipment – labels for nutrients, light, oxygen and water

A popular activity with the Teaching Trees Education Officers, the Squirrel game helps teach children about woodland management and animal control. Choose an area of forest or a clearing which will be safe for lots of children to be running around in without tripping on roots or brambles or running into trees.  Round 1 – choose only one or two children to be squirrels, the rest can be acorns, trying to collect all the things that they need to grow. How many of them can collect a label from each of the piles and make it back to the nursery to grow before they are caught and eaten by a squirrel? Round 2 – what happens to the game if there are lots more squirrels? Play and see! Discuss with the group what we can learn from this about squirrels and woodland management.

If you try any of these activities we’d love to see pictures and hear about your adventures. contact Becky at