Nature Kindergarten

Our Nature Kindergarten Ethos

Our Nature Kindergartens

Our Nature Kindergarten ethos derives from various outdoor learning philosophies and practices including Forest School, Forest Kindergarten, Beach School, Nature School and Te Whariki, but essentially it is all about outdoor learning and being in nature.

Our Thrive Nature Kindergartens provide an enriched outdoor learning environment where your child can develop their interests whilst being fully immersed in nature. We have seven wonderful education settings across Scotland and the North-West of England where you can be confident your child is being cared for by a long-standing, highly trained team. In each of our Kindergartens you will find nature at every corner, teaching children about the wonders of the natural world is at the heart of what we do! Whether it is blowing dandelions in spring, collecting shells from the beach in summer, crunching through leaves in autumn or discovering an icicle in winter – we love the outdoors! At each of our Kindergartens you’ll find an extensive outdoor area equipped with all the learning opportunities to support every area of your child’s holistic development.

Where Nature Kindergarten Originated

Freidrich Froebel, an early pioneer of the Nature Kindergarten, was the inspiration for early years teachers to develop a provision built on using nature and natural environments and opportunities for young children to develop and learn outdoors in Denmark.

Froebel said “play is the highest expression of human development in childhood for it alone is the free expression of what is in the child’s soul.”

Today Scandinavian countries have some of the best educational outcomes in the world and their focus on nature, outdoor play and movement is a significant part of this.

Why the Nature Kindergarten Ethos is so Important?

We believe that children learn best in natural spaces, experiencing all kinds of weather and being in the fresh air. The learning process facilitates more than just knowledge-gathering, it helps children to develop socially, emotionally, spiritually, physically and intellectually.

The non-structured, learning environment allows children to lead their own learning through exploration and discovery with supportive adults scaffolding the learning that takes place. The same space can provide new learning experiences each day depending on the seasons, the weather and wildlife that have visited. For example a shower of rain can turn dry earth to mud allowing a completely different learning experience and challenge for children in the same space.

Key Aims of our Nature Kindergartens

Our Nature Kindergartens aim to:

  • Improve children’s emotional wellbeing, build confidence, motivation, self-esteem, self-belief and self-regulation skills.
  • Promote children’s good physical health and well-being, reducing levels of obesity, through different types of movement and negotiation of uneven ground and differing terrain.
  • Promote physical literacy through plentiful opportunities for gross and fine motor skills, proprioception [perception or awareness of the position and movement of the body] and special awareness
  • Create and develop collaboration and long lasting friendships with peers.
  • Promote a love of and respect for nature through caring for the environment and wildlife.
  • Support language development and improve social skill, including listening and responding.
  • Promote science, mathematics and problem-solving through real hands-on experiences.
  • Encourage independence and independent thinking as well as teamwork.
  • Raise awareness of risks giving children the tools to assess and navigate danger safely.

The Role of our Nature Kindergarten Leaders

Each of our Nature Kindergarten Settings have a Nature Kindergarten Leader who is passionate about being outdoors in nature and understands how to maximise natural spaces for teaching and learning. Their role is to ensure the Nature Kindergarten ethos is prevalent in daily practice and the setting is continually reflecting and evolving in the area.

The Nature Kindergarten Leader will:

  • Organise daily safety checks. Be aware of, address, and report risks of maintenance issues so children can access the outdoor spaces safely.
  • Undergo required training and qualifications in outdoor learning.
  • Deliver inspiring outdoor sessions in all weather.
  • Seek support from the nursery manager in embedding good practice; developing knowledge, understanding and attitudes of the staff team
  • Liaise directly with the Conservation and Nature Kindergarten Leader regarding training of the staff team and development of spaces
  • Reflect on current practice in the setting considering areas for improvement
  • Ensure that activities involving tool use and fire are well planned for and only available when there is an appropriately qualified person to supervise
  • Positively promote the Nature Kindergarten ethos to parents and visitors
  • Take part in regular networking with other Nature Kindergarten Leaders

What you will see in our Nature Kindergartens

The beauty of natural environments is that every outdoor space is as unique as the children themselves and the same space will change its features throughout the year. However to ensure we include specific aspects of the Nature Kindergarten we should see the following features in the spaces children use:

  • Trees, grass and soil (Natural Flora and Fauna)
  • Planting and natural wild areas
  • Safely constructed and spaced out fire pit areas
  • Opportunities for climbing
  • Bug hotels or similar
  • Stocks of natural resources such as sticks and stones collected regularly if not available in the immediate environment to support creativity
  • [Stocks of natural resources such as sticks and stones to support creativity]
  • Outdoor covered and open seating areas
  • Invites to nature such as bird boxes
  • Spaces for relaxation (see self-regulation guidance)
  • Although Nature Kindergarten focus on outdoor learning, nature and conservation, we would expect that the natural aspects of the outdoors are reflected indoors through practice and provision.

Suitable Clothing

Everyone involved in Nature Kindergarten will be expected to dress for whatever the weather throws at them, removing any barriers to spending time immersed in nature. In addition, children must feel comfortable and able to move their bodies freely as they need to when walking, running, jumping, experimenting, collecting, making, creating, climbing trees, building dens, discovering wildlife, gardening and sitting round a campfire.

  • All-in-one waterproof suits, or coat and trousers
  • Gloves and hats in the cold weather
  • Wellington boots or equivalent all year round
  • Sun hats (and sun cream) in the heat
  • Layers of comfortable clothing to add or remove as children need it
  • Clothes that children can get dirty or damage without worry

We will provide outdoor waterproof suits for children, and you could help us by providing comfortable clothing that children can get dirty, wellington boots and sun hats. Please speak to your manager if this will be difficult for you.

The Importance of Risky Play

Being outdoors in nature [naturally] provides opportunities for children to encounter uncertainty, unpredictability, hazards and risks. We actively promote these experiences as they give children the opportunity to think critically, take initiative, plan and problem-solve; positively impacting their development, wellbeing and overall health. However, this does not mean we are deliberately putting children in harm’s way. We will utilise opportunities [that arise] to raise children’s awareness of risk and danger and teach them how to assess it and overcome it, equipping them with the vital life skills needed to keep themselves and others safe in the unpredictable world outside of the Nature Kindergarten setting.

Opportunities for children to manage their own risks will be provided in a controlled environment. This means adults will have already thought about the potential risks, making steps to minimise those where the extent of the risk could outweigh the benefit if not well prepared for or supervised.

Our Nature Kindergarten’s will use our Risk Versus Benefit Assessments to measure the potential risks of equipment, space and activities within their outdoor area, against the potential benefits to children’s learning, health and wellbeing. Where a risk is deemed too high, steps will be taken to reduce the risk by action, preparation and review. Please ask to see the nursery’s Risk Versus Benefit Assessments when they are completed if you would like to know more. The intention is not to make sensible decisions about risk whilst teaching children about health and safety.

Keeping Children safe in a Nature Kindergarten

We will ensure that there is:

  • A whole team awareness of the potential risks, and training on how to complete an effective Risk Versus Benefit Assessment
  • A designated Nature Kindergarten Leader who is based in the setting and other identified individuals who will take on responsibility when the leader is away from the setting
  • Regular checks of stocks and suitability of children’s clothing and footwear
  • Daily checks for environmental risks and safety and suitability of additional resources and equipment used
  • A trained practitioner in first aid to be available and a fully stocked first aid kit
  • Full awareness of children’s additional, medical of dietary needs
  • Full attention to children and practitioners are alert [the alertness of practitioners to the children’s fears…] to their fears, concerns or discomfort
  • Ongoing reflection on activities to ensure we take any learning from them, they meet children’s needs and make improvements as necessary
three smiling boys wearing builders hard hats