You may have come across the 'forest school' approach before and while we do not subscribe to many parts of that model, it is in many ways, similar to the unique nature kindergarten approach here at Riverside Cottage Nursery. We are set in 2 acres of crofting land, which borders fields, woodlands and the River Almond - the perfect set-up for an immersive nature kindergarten experience!
If you’re like us, the star of the show here is the generous outdoor space, which allows children to engage in deep, sensory and self-directed play in a natural environment on a daily basis.
Our upper woodland has a playpark, rope swing and mud kitchen - and plenty of trees to climb. It’s also the area we use to set up hammocks and protective tarps for nap time.
The lower woodland is rugged and muddy; it is as you find it, with uneven terrain, broken branches, molehills, nests, nettles and insects. This is the area we also use for many of our campfires and is the way we get to the river - one of our favourite resources. Children can only access the lower woodland when accompanied by an adult.
We also have a large garden with a huge trampoline. This is where we access the allotment and one of the outdoor classrooms - and on the other side is our upper woodland and the second outdoor classroom. Children can freely flow between the garden and upper woodland area, giving them a sense of freedom and responsibility; there is always an adult nearby to keep them safe and we use walkie-talkies to communicate with each other across our expansive grounds
Because our focus is on being outside, our indoor space is a bijou cottage with a log burner and lots of books. We sometimes bake here and also eat around our big farmhouse table when the weather’s too bad to eat outside. The two outdoor classrooms are for building, planting and crafting; these provide shelter when the kids want to be outside and the weather’s being overly Scottish!
We agree with the education experts who state that immersion in natural environments makes a valuable contribution to children’s holistic development. We place high value in free play, which provides boundless learning opportunities; children naturally learn by playing. In doing so, they learn to negotiate, problem-solve, share and make decisions…and they also make and follow rules and learn to get along. We believe play should be directed by children, not adults.