We've previously shared what our Montessori parent-toddler classroom looked like and some of the activities we've tried so today I thought I would try to do the same with our toddler Forest School class. We are currently living in the UK and we don't have access to a Montessori school or Montessori toddler class but I've found the Forest School class beneficial in so many ways. I have found Forest School compatible with my Montessori parenting and would absolutely recommend it to other Montessori parents.
Like the Montessori classroom, the child is free to move around the Forest and work at their own pace. The child isn't expected to do any of the activities but work on what they are attracted to. Some days the child does a lot of 'work' or does a lot of different activities and on other days they may only do a couple of activities but spend a lot of time on them. It's ALL child-led.
The mud kitchen is always a favourite and is used by many children. It's a good place for water play and there is always lots of transferring, pouring and stirring. It's also one of the most social places where children will work together or will work next to each other, often passing spoons or pots or sharing their water. There are lots of different pots, pans, containers, pitchers, cups, spoons and, ladles for the children to explore with and use.
I find that my children use a lot more of their gross motor skills at Forest School. There is a lot of climbing, balancing, stepping up, walking, digging and using (child-size) wheelbarrows. Forest School is an excellent place for the toddler to use maximum effort which is easily achieved with a big pot of water and often with full watering cans.
Just like the Montessori classroom, at Forest School the teachers also rotate or change up the materials. It's fun to find a new rope climbing frame, new tree stepping blocks, new sticks or branches for building shelters or a new net to climb on and explore. I love how in tune the materials are with nature. This (pictured above net) is such a large playing structure built in complete harmony with the natural environment that surrounds it.
Forest School provides a connection to nature and the outdoor environment. It allows us to closely observe nature and all of its wonders including noticing the changes in the seasons, not just the plants but also the animals and fungi. Just today we found some acorns on the ground with lots of pretty caps. We may have put one or two in our pockets for our nature table. Just walking to the Forest School location is a wonderful and enchanting experience.
Our Forest School also offers a crafting activity every session. It is all nature-based and can be adapted to the child's skill level. The teachers are hands-on and can be often found showing a toddler how to use a saw or split wood with a mallet. Much like the Montessori class, at Forest School children use real tools and are shown how to use them carefully. Today the toddlers, with assistance, made wooden card (or photo) holders made from a bit of branch and some wool (pictured above at home). Each week I'm excited to discover which craft we are using. Often the crafts are open-ended like working with clay or using hole punches on leaves.
Other activities Otto loves at Forest School includes mud play - digging and transporting mud, playing the wooden hanging xylophone and playing with the large rope swing, often using it like a pendulum.
At the end of the class, the children can choose to gather for a snack and later some singing around the campfire. Fire is one element that my children are not exposed to at home and sitting around the campfire (or making campfire pop corn or other treats) is one of my favourite parts of Forest School.
Much like a Montessori toddler class, Forest School provides children a place and space to connect with other children and to create their own community. While I don't feel like children at this age need to socialise, spending time with other children in a space designed specifically for them can be really special. it's nice to make connections and have other adults in the children's lives too.
If you are interested in our Forest School experience you can also read the previous article What You Need to Know About Forest School.