Autumn is truly in full-swing as we relish each cool day outdoors! Its no surprise that fall is a favorite season for so many. Besides no longer having mosquitoes to contend with outdoors, the temperatures are just perfect for playing. Play is the theme on our minds this month as the kids form friendships in the forest, create their own games and navigate social situations. We are seeing so many different types of play—chasing, building, variants of Tag and Hide and Seek, collecting and organizing, dramatic social play—and playing is truly the most important thing we do at Wee Folk Forest School. Study after study in both the Education and Psychology fields have shown that children’s brains learn best through play—preferably in mixed-age groups and with minimal adult intervention.
Further studies have shown that outdoors in nature is the optimal location for play. It is easy to see why: nature provides just the right mixture of risk, mystery, and challenge as well as nearly all the materials a kid needs to create miniature worlds and adventure. A playground is designed by an adult architect who guesses at what kids might enjoy…but in the forest the kids are the architects designing the environment into their games. They are the storytellers and the artists making magic that is breathtaking.
Having children ranging in age from 2-6 provides amazing benefits and opportunities that might be missed homogenous age-grouped classrooms. We are seeing the older children begin to adapt their play to suit the younger children. For example, our littlest Wee Folk are often recruited to be a baby animal in a dramatic play episode created by the oldest children. We have also observed the older children constructing bridges and gardens for the little ones to knock over. A gentleness is emerging as the older children see the limitations of their little friends’ age. Conversely, the littlest children are always trying to keep up with the long strides and leaps of those agile “big kids.” Another wonderful perk is that our kids all seem to be wildlife experts and they are sharing their knowledge with each other. It is much more exciting to learn the difference between a moth and a butterfly from another child. Seeing a child just slightly older who can do such amazing acrobatics and knows so much about the world gives the younger child the feeling that their own days of expertise and agility aren’t so very far away.
The children are getting lots of opportunities to experiment, learn and practice using social skills in all kinds of situations. We see the kids proud to help one-another and doing so without any prompting. We see the kids listening to each other as they tell stories around the campfire or in the tipi. We see that they value each other’s words when they retell another child’s story or laugh uproariously at a silly surprise story ending. Naturally, they still must navigate social challenges—especially around sharing playmates and materials. We teachers will be spending lots of time gently helping them to navigate these challenges and identify their feelings while celebrating all the successes along the way. There certainly is a lot to celebrate!
Thank you to everyone who made our Family Work Day such an outstanding success. It is truly amazing to have such a strong and supportive community come together for a shared vision. We are so grateful to you all, our Forest Families!