As you will know, young children like nothing better than exploring the great outdoors, splashing in puddles, digging in mud, making dens, and discovering bugs, birds and all other living creatures.
But did you know that there are forest schools in and around Bristol which create a safe space to enable young children to do just this?
One such forest school is the amazing Badgers Forest School which is run by Bristol mum, Jenny Sanderson and which offers weekly Little Badgers sessions for children aged 1 – 4 and their parents/carers in woods in Southmead and in Wraxall Piece .
Hi Jenny, please tell readers a bit about yourself and Badgers Forest School.
Badgers Forest School Bristol was set up by Emily Wilson in 2012. I attended as first a mum, then a childminder and finally a volunteer once my daughter had started school. In Aug 2014 I took over from Emily when she moved to West Wales.
When I’m not out in the forest I work as a theatre artist with my company Bocadalupa. I work with Amy Rose who is one of the co-founders of Playing Out. We both work on creative projects exploring some of the ideas behind playing out and neighbourliness. For a few years now we have also been making work exploring the theme of motherhood as we are both artist mums.
Badgers Forest School fits perfectly into my creative life and family life too – win win! I feel very lucky to be in this position. I get to work with families and young children and be creative and playful in a beautiful environment.
What age range is Badgers Forest School aimed at?
Little Badgers is our group for 1-4 year olds and their carers. We have parents, grandparents, nannies and aunties all bringing children along.
Badgers Forest School gets asked to work with primary age children most often but we also work with older children and adult groups too. Forest School isn’t just for early years children.
What activities do you do at Little Badgers?
Our activities follow the season we are in. Within that we will have activities to stimulate the imagination – natural puppets, mud play, stick people, activities to engage the senses – a colour collage, a sound trail, seasonal food and activities to support & understand the natural world – bug hotels, bird feeders, participating in a national worm survey, for example.
We always have ID resources so parents can support children to understand what they find – bug pots, magnifying glasses, nature guides, we have paintbrushes and water for painting & mud play and child size trowels for digging.
The programme each term is adapted according to the interests of the children enrolled. We follow the children and their interests in our planning.
Where is Badgers Forest School held?
Wednesdays we are in Badock’s Wood – this is a hidden gem in the city. It is accessible by public transport and wheelchair/buggy friendly. There is a river through our site which is a magical resource. It’s different every week – the children get so much stimulation and information having access to it week in week out. There are always engineering problems involving recovering our flotilla of rubber ducks.
Thursdays we are in Wraxall Piece 5 mins from Leigh Woods. We work in partnership with the Forestry Commission who run this as a dedicated forest school site. This means it feels very private so children can play undisturbed.
We are also allowed fires here which again provides fantastic opportunities to show very young children how to be around fire safely. It also means we have some very gourmet sessions from time to time – garlic flower tempura anyone?!
What advantages do forest school activities have over indoor activities?
Forest school uses the natural resources of the wood for inspiration and to enable the children’s own ideas. It promotes the holistic development of everyone involved – resilience, confidence, independence.
The forest is made as safe as reasonably possible so that children are free to explore and experiment in a way that is increasingly rare in our society.
Do you get out and about in the great outdoors much in your free time with your kids?
Yes! We love camping. My son’s fantasy home is a hybrid of the Tenby area mixed up with the Wye Valley. In the meantime we make the most of the tucked away green spaces in Bishopston. We even have a resident fox family sharing our street.
What’s your favourite thing about running forest school?
It’s hard to just pick one thing. Being in the same place every week so that you notice the tiny changes each season brings is magical and then being able to share that with our families is even better. It’s camping for a job!
What about rainy days at Badgers Forest School?
Ooo we love the rain! Well me and the children anyway! I put up a shelter and then we just carry on. The forest looks, feels and sounds so different in the rain. It’s heaven for all those toddlers deep in a pouring, mixing phase.
Oh and the endless possibilities of mud… We look after our adults too – we ply them with fresh coffee so they don’t dwell on feeling too soggy.
How much does Badgers Forest School cost?
Families sign up for a school term of around 11 weeks. It works out at £8 a session. It is an integral part of the forest school philosophy that children benefit most from repeated visits over a long time.
How can readers sign their children at Badgers Forest School?
Go to our website – www.badgersforestschoolbristol.co.uk and fill out a booking form online.