By Ruth A. Wilson

State and national forests are often used as outdoor classrooms, but in some places, the forest isn’t just a classroom: it’s the school itself! These outdoor schools — designed for young children, usually ages three to five — are called “forest kindergartens” or, in German, “waldkindergartens.”

Wald = Etymology 1

From Middle English walden, from Old English wealdan(to rule, control, determine, direct, command, govern, possess, wield, exercise, cause, bring about), from Proto-West Germanic *waldan, from Proto-Germanic *waldaną (to reign), from Proto-Indo-European *waldʰ- (to be strong, be powerful, prevail, possess).

Etymology 2

From Middle English waldiwald, from Old English weald(power, authority), from Proto-Germanic *waldą (power), from Proto-Indo-European *waldʰ- (to be strong, be powerful, prevail, possess).Cognate with German Gewalt (force, power, control, violence)Swedish våld (force, violence).

“Waldkinder” means “children of the forest,”and in Europe, waldkindergartens abound with many such programs having no building at all. Forest kindergartens are especially popular in Germany, where there are now approximately 450 such programs, some partially supported by the government.

The recently developed Nature Action Collaborative for Children has more than 1,600 members from six continents.Other growing initiatives focusing on children and nature include the Children and Nature Network and the National Wildlife Foundation’s “Get Outside” program.

The first students from forest kindergartens in the U.S. are just now entering the public school system, so it’s too early to tell what long-term benefits the nature immersion program has had on them.


In Our Nature: Are Forest Preschools the Way of the Future?

There are a few key factors present at forest schools that can be translated to programs across the country. The first is something called “risky play.”

Researchers define risky play as taking part in mostly unsupervised activities that push boundaries;for most of us, risk amounts to conducting physical, emotional or social experiments to see what we can withstand. Playing on a slippery mud slope during a rainstorm would qualify as risky play,as would climbing trees or making up games in an area where there are pointy objects nearby.time spent gathering insects and exploring the preserve around the school might also be considered risky play,as the children interact with various unknown elements.Rough and tumble play is also risky, as it involves a chance that children could hurt each other while they’re wrestling. 

According to a 2018 study, participating in risk-taking behavior is essential for positive social development, especially in young children.2008 literature review found that risky play benefits kids by igniting positive self-esteem, increasing levels of enjoyment and excitement and offering a sense of pride. In a 2011 editorial, author Helen Sandseter suggested that the key benefit of risky play was “the lessons for life that [kids] unconsciously learn while practicing handling risks.”

“These types of activities can help kids learn to have confidence in themselves and [it gives them the] power to make independent decisions,” Louv says.

[Students often] resort to old-fashioned, inquisitive play, using natural objects and hiding places and make-believe adventures,” Muhammad says. “This ‘prehistoric play’has reduced the number of fights and disagreements during play. Yes, there are more scraps and bruises and even tears, but the bounce back and recovery … builds character.”

2015 study looked at a group of 4- and 5-year-olds and asked them to take part in activities initiated by adults, as well as activities they came up with themselves. While both setups showed positive increases in learning, the kids demonstrated better self-regulation and an increased awareness of their own emotional states when they initiated the activities themselves, suggesting that self-guided activities “maximize opportunities for children’s autonomy and control.”


Just remember these are children in their formative years.  Very young!  Nursery school age to 5 year olds.  This is a time in children’s lives when they are naturally SELFISH and SELF CENTERED.  These are the years when the Parents need to exercise CONTROL and instill good values.  IT is the parent’s parents job at this stage in their lives to PROTECT them.  To help them to learn to channel their energies properly and to direct their learning to things that will benefit them later in their lives.  Naturally, children will prefer to self direct.  To SELF anything.  SELF and PRIDE are enemies of their souls.

Do you really want you little ones to taught and lead by nature SPIRITS??


How Scandinavia has Connected Children’s Education to Nature

Scandinavia has a rich history in appreciation for nature. North mythology connected Norsemen to different gods based on their natural surroundings. For example, Norsemen believed Yggdrasil was a tree that held the whole world in its branches.People in Sweden have tales of Radanda which are tree spirits, and Skogsra, a mythical female creature of the forest. 

Forest schools first developed in Denmark, established by Ella Flautau. Flautau observed neighborhood children gathering in the forest. She came up with a concept to teach children in these natural areas and also have access to a daycare. These nature centered schools by Flautau were called naturebørnehavens. Today, 10% of Danish schools are forest schools. In Sweden, a concept called “Skogsmulle school”meaning Wood Mulle was founded by Gosta Frohm (1950).  (Wait!  Did they not just tell us that Skogsmulle is a mythical female creature of the Forest?? How does her name suddenly mean Wood Mulle?) 

The first modern forest school in the US was established in California, 1996.In 2020, there are about 585 forest schools across the United States. In Illinois,

According to Stephanie Dean  (2019), this pedagogical approach allows children to work on their self-esteem, self-confidence, and independence.Forest schools allow children to spend time outdoors and learn how to care for nature. Children to learn how to start fires, climb trees and make their own carving tools with pocketknives. Forest schools may not work as well in areas around the world where they place high value on the security and safety of their children.