Tag: Forest School (Page 1 of 2)

Campfires – The Basics & Tips

We get a lot of enjoyment out of making and using campfires as part of our outdoor experiences.  It adds an extra sense of adventure to our outdoor trips, whether hiking, camping, or just visiting a beach to play, and in the cooler months it makes our meal break a very cosy one.  I haven’t always been happy with fires though and learnt a lot through forest school back in the UK before we moved here.  Since then I have tried to carry on the experience of eating by a fire as the children loved it.  I have learnt a lot over the last 12 months and I thought I might share some basics and tips to help you get started, or give you more confidence if you are new to it.

How To Build A Campfire:

  1. You will need some supplies first!  This is what we use with a lot of success:  Newspaper, cotton wool, Vaseline, tiny kindling (very small twigs, or we prefer silver birch bark we have shredded), bigger sticks (thumb width), and larger wrist sized logs.  Don’t forget to sign up – you will then get the password to access our freebies page, and you can see what is in our fire starting kit!
  2. Build a tepee like structure:  Small amount of newspaper in the middle, with some cotton wool on top (that has a bit of Vaseline on – this helps light the fire).  Then place the kindling around that in a tepee shape, then the larger sticks around that, and then the bigger logs around that.
  3. Our stacking system:  This is a system we use very effectively for our campfires so you could give it a go too.  It doesn’t go so high as a tepee structure so is easier to pop a grill over to cook on.  We place the smaller sticks in a crisscross square shape, placing a loosely crumpled piece of newspaper and cotton wool with Vaseline on in the middle.  Then place a larger log across the top of the stack.
  4. Once the fire is lit, make sure you top up the fuel before the flames die right down to get it really going at first.  If it dies down too much, you need to try blowing under at the glowing embers to get the flames going again.  Once it has calmed down a little you are ready to cook on it 🙂

How To Put Out Campfires:

  1. Never leave a campfire before it is fully out as it may harm the environment and wildlife.
  2. Let the firewood all burn down to ash, and spread the ash and embers out a little
  3. Gently pour on some water slowly.  We carry extra water for this, to make sure we can always put our fires out. Or if we are by water we take a bucket with us.
  4. Mix the embers up with a stick, allowing the water to infiltrate more, and bring anything that is still glowing and alight underneath to the surface to be dowsed with water.
  5. Pour on a little more water; you will hear hissing doing this and produce smokey steam (watch where you are standing!).
  6. Again use a stick to spread the embers out and stir water in.
  7. Keep repeating until you are confident nothing is still alight/glowing.

Some Rules For Campfires:

  1. Use fire pits where you can, or carry a lightweight and portable stove with you.  By using provided fire pits, or carrying your own stove, you are helping to protect the habitat of creatures in the area that you have decided to cook in, plus reduced the risk of fire spreading.
  2. You need to consider any fire dangers for the time of year (e.g. is it very dry?) and bear in mind any local restrictions.  You don’t want to spread your fire.
  3. Take only wood from the ground, never from the trees, and gather it from a wide area.  You don’t want to remove everything from one small area as it has a job to perform in the ecosystem providing nutrients and habitats.
  4. Allow your wood to burn completely down to ash, and then spread them out when you are extinguishing your fire.
  5. Put out a fire with water not dirt,
  6. Avoid building your fire on rocks as it will scar them.  Also, if near coastal water that covers them after you’ve been and gone, when the water rapidly cools the rocks it may cause them to crack.
  7. Never leave your fire unattended, it is a fire risk and a hazard to any inquisitive animals.
  8. If you have moved any rocks, for example to make a bit of a wind break, make sure you return them to where they were.
  9. Make sure you take all your rubbish home again, to avoid harming animals and the countryside.

I hope these tips will help you to either give campfires a go if you haven’t before, or help you get more confidence if you are a newbie.  They really add to the outdoor experience and are so cosy to be around.  They also help teach children basic bush craft and outdoor skills (whether that be lighting a fire, looking after a fire, or thinking about nature and the environment when using a fire).  However, they must be made and used responsibly and always thinking about safety and nature.  Don’t forget to check out our outdoor cooking recipes for inspiration for what to cook on your campfire!!  We have lots of ideas both savoury and sweet, so go take a browse and enjoy them 🙂

Campfires the basics and tips, campfires, how to make a campfire, campfire rules, outdoor cooking, camping, hiking, www.mammasschool.co.uk

What Is Nature Based Learning – Tips To Get Started

What is nature based learning?  Nature based learning is a form of learning and development via the immersion in nature, which also has underlying conservation values as well.  It develops a life long connection to the natural world for the children, and puts nature at the centre of their learning.  I will go into the benefits of nature based learning another time, and you can find ideas for nature based learning here, but today I just want to give an overview of what nature based learning entails. 

Many authors have helped increase the awareness of the fact that children should be in the outdoors as much as possible.  One of my favourite reads about this topic is Richard Louv’s “Last Child In The Woods”, you can check out my other favourite outdoor reads here. In addition to this, the popularity and provision of things such as Forest Schools and Nature Preschools have also increased.

As a previously home schooling mum of three, we chose to base our learning around nature as much as possible, and I saw the benefits with their enthusiasm which then naturally lead to better and more fun learning experiences.  Nature draws most children and excites them to learn.  We would either learn about specific nature based topics, or we used nature as an accessory to another learning topic.  However, you will find that nature topics use a range of educational skills that are needed for their learning development.

What is Nature Based Learning & Tips To Get Started:

  1. Get outdoors!!  Take all subjects into the great outdoors.  Think of the outdoors as your classroom.  Be committed to getting outdoors in every season (however brief depending on your climate extremes!!), and invest in good outdoor gear to achieve this 🙂
  2. Nature props:  If you can’t be outdoors, bring nature indoors with you, and use it as props to aid your learning, still basing your subject around the presence of nature.
  3. Immersive experiences: Provide experiences which can be immersive and very hands on.  One of the main principles about nature based learning, and why it is so effective, is because of the interaction children are having with nature.
  4. Environmental activities: Taylor your learning activities with your local environment in mind, and change the types of environments you are visiting too, to broaden the experience.
  5. Pace setting: Let your child set the pace….don’t hurry or rush them.  Allow them time to explore and ask questions, and the direction the learning takes may even change!  It’s absolutely fine to have a plan, but allow for it to change and be encouraged by the learning that happens due to having the flexibility to do this.  

Good Resources For Nature Based Learning:

  1. A Nature Curriculum:  The nature curriculum we have used is, “Exploring Nature with Children. A complete, year-long curriculum”. It is a beautifully written framework, written by Raising Little Shoots, and can be found over at https://raisinglittleshoots.com/ It suggests a topic for the week, and then provides some background information and suggestions for nature journaling and outdoor exploring. It also provides a comprehensive suggested reading list (fiction and non-fiction) for each week, plus a poem and a piece of art to study. There are extension activity ideas too. We used the topic as the theme for our week, and followed the ideas for our journaling, and one fiction book.
  2. The Almanac:  This is a yearly guide (so we are now using “The Almanac, A Seasonal Guide to 2018” by Lia Leendertz) that connects you to the months and seasons of the year through activities such as exploring the night sky, foraging, feast days and seasonal eating, and a few other subjects too. 
  3. Spotter books are a good place to start when exploring an environment, and can help identify what you are looking at as well.
  4. Forest Schools are springing up all over the place.  If your child is school aged or not home schooled (so you can’t attend this on a weekly basis), they very often have weekend/holiday activity days as well.
  5. There are lots of books out there as well for background reading about what is nature based learning.  I have already mentioned that I have written about my favourites  in another blog post 🙂

What is nature based learning in terms of how much or how little?  The great thing about nature based learning is that you can do it as much or as little as you want.  You can either take on a few learning activities or craft ideas, or you can immersive yourselves and your little ones into it completely and base their whole learning experience on this method.  You can pick and mix to find the balance that works for you, your children, and your family as a whole.

In the future I will write about the benefits of nature based learning, and nature based learning ideas, but in the meantime you can check out our  Nature Based Learning Category  for inspiration.

What is nature based learning - tips to get started, tips for nature based learning, nature, outdoor classroom, nature curriculum, forest school, www.mammasschool.co.uk

Scout Bomb – A Tasty Scouting Treat

A few weeks ago my little lady returned from her day away on her sjöscout island bursting with lots of enthusiasm over the day, but mainly for the food that they had prepared and eaten. In particular, a dish called the “scout bomb”.  She had been dying to cook this for us all on the fire, so this week I made sure we had all the ingredients, and on our weekly fire pit meal she prepared, she cooked, and she did a great job…..the fact that she cooked a meal all three children ate without a complaint is something I very rarely achieve!

Ingredients:

Potatoes (diced, and I worked on 2  small potatoes per person).

A leek.

Cream cheese.

A knob of butter per person.

A huge sausage (excuse the supermarket photo of said sausage, but I forgot to include it in the proper photo and by the time I remembered it was in our tummies!!).

Instructions:

Dice the potato and sausage.

Peel off a leek leaf and make into a rectangle to hold a portion (it’s your plate).

Place the mixed up diced potato and sausage onto the leek leaf.

On top of the potato and sausage place the knob of butter and a few teaspoons of cream cheese.

Wrap the whole bundle in tin foil….and there is your scout bomb ready to cook.

To cook your scout bomb place it onto the fire for at least 15 mins.  Once that is finished, carefully lift it off onto a plate and unwrap the scout bomb.  The leek “plate” will have infused the rest of the meal with flavour, and the butter and cream cheese melted to coat the meal in a delicious sauce.

You can eat your scout bomb straight off the leaf, but my three are quite adverse to the known presence of leek in their meals (even though it was the choice of one of them to cook with it!), so we scraped it all off onto a plate….it was very delicious, and very welcome on a very wet day!

Scout bomb, scout, campfire food, outdoor cooking, scout camp, scout food www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

 

Country Kids
 

Follow On Pinterest!

I’ve recently been working really hard on ideas boards on Pintrest.  So, if you like what we do, or what we are about, hop over to Pintrest and have a look, under the people tab, at Mamma’s School (or type Mamma’s School into the search box).  I’ll leave a list below of my boards to see if one would take your fancy, and you either follow that board or Mamma’s School, you will hear about when I add new ideas to them 🙂  I’ll be adding to these boards a lot over the next few weeks, so keep your eyes on them!!  Here’s what boards we are compiling at the moment…..

30 days wild, outdoor crafts, nature play, home education, beach play, outdoors, forest school, Halloween, outdoor learning, nature quotes, VW, dinosaur home education, fairy craft, fairy home education, pirates home education, rock experiments, soil experiments, friction experiments, resistance experiments, gravity experiments, buoyancy experiments, magnet experiments, levers pulleys and gear experiments, stone age art, stone age study, iron age study, iron age art, roman art, exploring nature, science, Christmas activities and crafts, Sweden, Scandinavian Christmas, children sewing machine, beginners fishing, microscope activities, creative play, unplugged childhood, creative learning, beach classroom, garden classroom, and finally, play…….have a peak and enjoy some inspiration 🙂

Last Forest School, and More Goodbyes.

img_9681Everyday now seems to hold some goodbyes for us, to friends that have played very special roles in our lives (but hoping only temporary goodbyes).  Today was a lovely (rainy) walk with my close friend and fellow twin mummy (and her scrummy 13 week old puppy).  She was such a help and support in the early days of having twins, and then became a good friend who we enjoyed many a dog walk with, shared advice on anything to do with anything, and I even taught her how to drink like a Norwegian 😉  After our rainy walk, and a picnic in the rain, she headed home and we headed off back into the woods for forest school, which was to be our last one.  Today was like pre moving days, I had the children outside in nature, regardless of the yukky weather, for around 5 hours, and their mood was much better for it.

img_9691 img_9686 img_9685  There was lots going on again today.  We didn’t have time to do everything,   but all three did quite a bit.  One of the activities was tie dying with natural colours.  So a pan of hot water, blackberries, and vinegar was heated up on the fire. Then you took a square of material, and put elastics round it in whatever formation you fancied.  They stewed in the pan for a while before being fished out, cooled off in a bowl of cold water, and released from theirs bands, to produce a very effective purple tie dyed material – very pretty.  The children also chose to do some weaving.  They tried first on a make shift loom, made on trees with string, using different resources and everyone adding to it, so it looked really nice, and also they tried with sticks.  All three were riveted.  The boys let me do most of theirs, but our little lady was addicted, and made three.  It was a very calming activity, and we all enjoyed sitting there watching the patterns take shape.  The third and final activity my trio did was making a wind sock.  They weaved willow branches into a circle, and then added various colours and lengths of streamers to them to blow in the wind.  We have loved forest school, and I am so please our little lady got to do it as well, after the twins starting the preschool one way back in January.  It has been an eye opener for all of us, and has given me confidence to do things with the children on my own too.  I’d thoroughly recommend it.  It gives children new skills, gives them confidence, boosts their creativity, helps them learn, gets them in touch with and enjoying nature, and gets them outside in the great outdoors.

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After forest school we drove home to visit some more friends.  This was another fellow twin mummy, whose boy/girl twins are only a few months younger than ours, and our elder sibling daughters danced together.  Our twins also went to the same pre school, and mini man no.2 wants to marry her girl twin, and my mini man no.2 is her girl twin’s prince – aaahhhhhh.  So we headed over for lots of fun playing and a yummy suppertime.  All these mummies are just as important friends to me too, as are their little people our to my three, so I am saying goodbye to my friends too.  It’s all very emotional, but highly exciting 🙂

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Peeling his hazel stick for toasting marshmallows on the fire

 

Forest School-Mini Beasts

img_9576Today’s forest school topic ran on nicely from last weeks nature curriculum topic of mini beasts.  There was a lot of different activities set out in the woods which the children could choose to dip in and out of, and do as much or as little of each one as they fancied.  They didn’t have to move on if they didn’t want to, and they didn’t have to do an activity if they didn’t fancy it.  My three chose to saw and drill their mini beasts first (usually there is an instant queue of children for these activities, but remarkably today my three were the first up).

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They happily sawed chunks of branches to make their insects bodies, and then drilled many holes to stick accessories in such as antennae, wings, and legs etc.  Little lady made a butterfly, mini man no.1 made a mutant ladybird, and mini man no.2 made a snail.

img_9575After this, at mini man no.2’s request, we grabbed a bug hunting pot and a mini beast transporter (teaspoon) and headed off for a bug hunt, reading the info sheets dotted around us as we went.  We found quite a lot of wild life in the undergrowth, especially as the conditions were nice and damp today.  Always good conditions for finding forest mini beasts.  Our little lady then wanted to have a go at crafting another butterfly using clay and leaves, whilst the mini practised their balancing on big branches and logs.  There was pebble painting too, but today the painting didn’t grab any of their attention, usually painting is a firm favourite.

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img_9584There was just time for one more activity before the camp fire and toasting of marshmallows.  This was really interesting and very seasonal.  There was an apple press.  You popped the apples into the press, pushed the lever around and squeezed out fresh apple juice (which you had to be quick to drink before others pinched it, it was so delicious!).  The children were intrigued by the apple press, and got as much entertainment out of watching it while others used it, as they did using it themselves.

We are booked into forest school for the whole half of term (6 sessions).  Next week will be no.3 and then the day before we fly will be no.4 (if we manage to make it!).  I’m glad we kept the booking though, despite the imminent move, as we are all loving the things we are doing there at the moment.  Today’s set up of the child drifting to wherever their interest led worked really well, as the children there are all very self motivated.

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The Apple Press

 

Back to (Forest) School

z213Today was the first session back at forest school, and although we won’t be there for the whole lot we have booked, this is the one thing I have kept going (along with brownies as you can pay weekly for that).  I am hoping it will make us all get out the house and have something to look forward to as the moving chaos gathers speed!! It was a new group for us, as rather than going to the preschool twiglets group, we have now progressed to the home education group as the twins are school age now.  Today was all about foraging for blackberries, and then using them for craft and cooking.

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We pottered off for a bit of a stroll to locate some blackberries, and to try and bring some back with us to the school area, not just fill our tummies is the rather hot autumn sunshine.  When we got back, we popped a few into a pot and started mashing them with a stick to make paint.  The children then used blackberry paint and charcoal to create their works of art.  There was quite a lot of body painting going on too!!!

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As we’d been berry picking that had taken up quite a lot of the time, so it wasn’t so jammed full of activities, but to be honest, the day was so hot, that moving fast wasn’t really on anyone’s agenda!!  After doing the crafts the fire was lit for the cooking creations.  Each child had an apple with the core removed, and they stuffed the apple with remaining blackberries, sugar, and cinnamon…yum yum!!  They were then placed onto the fire to cook.  All three loved these, and as it had started to rain, it was a very cosy snack despite the heat of the day.

Leaving Party at Forest School.

z201After we had updated our National Trust books (plant it, eat it, grow it as,  the cherry tomatoes were sampled), my trio headed over to where they do Forest School for their leaving party, and to say goodbye to their little friends….well mainly our little ladies friends that the boys love being with!!  We had 12 little people, and an afternoon of sunshine 🙂

z200It all kicked off with the team building and ice breaking activity of making dens.  There was a little bit of instruction on the supplies, and types of construction, and then children were left to it.  Once it was built, they heaved some logs inside, and they were able to have their juice and biscuits in there.  They enjoyed hammering the pegs in, and despite being in a wood full of tree roots, didn’t seem to have to much of an issue with getting them into the ground.  After their snack break, there were 2 activities.  Our little lady had chosen the theme of camouflage for the party, so there was face painting with greens and browns, to try and camouflage the children.  They got into pairs and had a blast painting each other.  My mini man no.1 let his big sister loose on him and there wasn’t a bit of face left unpainted!!

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The other activity was leaf bashing to make flags.  My favourite craft activity of laying leaves on material and folding it over, then bashing it with a hammer to get an imprint.

z205z197 z199After every bodies face was suitably camouflaged, it was time for some intricate games of hide and seek.  There were camouflage cloaks to be worn, and with their camouflaged faces they set off to hide in the woods!!  They had a couple of goes doing this, and then it was time for the campfire.  They were taught how to peel the hazel twigs, and the fire safety and then had the opportunity to toast a couple of marshmallows each (or if you are my mini men, gobble them whilst waiting your turn because it was all just too much!!).

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Our little lady and mini men are very lucky in that they have had such a lovely friendship group, and I am very lucky that these friends have come with an equally as lovely bunch of mummies 🙂  We will miss them all as we head off on our adventure, but now we know we have a spare room, we sincerely mean it when we say it, please come and visit us, and let us show you around our little patch of Sweden 🙂

Swedish Recce Day 1.

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Well it’s certainly been very busy!!  However, we have achieved a lot and managed to get our heads around a few key subject areas.  The first job of the morning was to head to a supermarket, to price up a food budget, and get a better idea of the cost of living compared to home, and the good news is, unlike Norway (where our outgoings would double), here the outgoings would be on a par with our spending for items such as food, at home.  After that we had a list of three towns we wanted to explore in further detail, and added a fourth on at the end of the day.  We had also decided that it would be the schools that decided where we ended up as the main criteria.  Having pulled our little lady out of school in the UK, for very specific reasons, we needed to make sure these concerns were truly addressed in the Swedish system.

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First up for the day was Nättraby.  A coastal town to the west of Karlskrona, where Dadda’s job would be based if he accepted it.  It was a lovely place and the inlet of the fjord was beautiful, however, I didn’t like the location of the school.  It was right on the edge of the town by the main road/motorway…now don’t think motorway in UK terms, Swedish motorways are generally single lane, just with a faster speed limit, so it’s not like having a school next to the M27!  The next trip was over to Rödeby.  Now this is slightly inland, north of Karlskrona, but in a heavily wooded area….not a hard task in Sweden (53% of the country is forest).  We knew before we’d left the UK that all schools had finished already for summer in Sweden (as they do in Norway), but we needed to have as much of a look at them from the outside even if we couldn’t see them in operation.  However, here we struck gold, in that the school library is shared with the public, so it was open for us to wander in and around.  Then once inside we heard chatting in the administration offices, so I stuck my head in, asked if anyone could help us and the deputy head showed us around, answered questions, and gave us some paperwork 🙂  This school, although in a very small place, has an indoor and outdoor swimming pool (bbbrrrrr), backs onto the forest that they use for playtime and other adventures, and has a ski slope out the back for the winter!  We learnt so much.  Our little lady would only have missed one year of Swedish school, since Swedish children start school when they’re 7 years old. They’d welcome her with open arms despite only a few ropey Norwegian words (the language is very similar), and have every confidence she would pick up Swedish quickly. The school day would be finished by 1330hrs, and she’d be outside playing EVERYDAY whatever the weather (no indoor playtime happens)…..oh and she needs slippers for inside to put on when she removes her outdoor shoes 🙂  They do partake in a a few lessons too ;-).  The class size is around 20 pupils.  There is a kindergarten as well which the twins could go into (mainly to learn the language and only a few mornings a week).

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The last town on our list was Jämjö to the east of Karlskrona.  This was again a beautiful place, with a good school, but we had connected nicely to Rödeby as a place where our family could settle.  After all that checking out those places, we had a little drive around some of the smaller islands to the south of Karlskrona.  These were beautiful and scenic.  I actually fell in love with one (Sturkö) and then started considering it as a place to live.  The school was lovely, but only went up to age 13, so our children would have to travel further for the next stage of school, High School (ages 13-16).  I then decided to tag another town onto our list, so back over to the west to look at Ronneby.  This was a much larger place, so we didn’t think we’d like to live there, but they had a beautiful large town park area, and we were fascinated by a waterplay park complete with giant slides, that everyone seemed to be playing in despite the wind and rain!

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So it’s been a crazy day, but we do feel like we’ve achieved a lot, and got our heads around the places and areas etc.  Tomorrow we focus more on the job side and head into town to meet people involved with the employment side of life, before I put my foot down and we head to another island to try and relax for the afternoon and to discover another sandy beach….oh and find the blasted vinmonopolet. For those of you not familiar with Norway and Sweden’s alcohol selling, you can only buy lager in the supermarket.  Everything else is sold in a government monopoly, thus controlling things such as prices and offers, and prevents over consumption and reduces the profit motive for sales of alcohol. Unfortunately as a foreigner this means you have to ask a lot of people where the place is, thus looking very desperate for booze, and pay cash in hand as they don’t seem to trust our debit or credit cards for purchase of alcohol, meaning you also have to locate a cash machine!!!  I’m just looking for it for reference if we did move here, we are being amply sustained with our outbound duty free ;-)!!!!

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Super Teddies Forest School.

IMG_9085This was the final forest school of the school year, and the final session for us in the pre school Twiglets class.  What a blast we have had since January, and how our lives have changed since we started.  It was originally a treat for our twins with their birthday and Christmas money, but we kept it going as we saw the benefits to them straight away.  So much so, it made us rethink the education our daughter was going through, and by Easter we had removed her from formal education, and she also enjoyed the benefits of the Friday forest school sessions.  We have learnt many new crafts, a lot of new skills, the children have learnt without realising but with being allowed to use their natural movement and in the outdoors where they are happiest, and we have toasted many many marshmallows 🙂  We are sad to be moving on from our lovely little group, but are excited to see what the home education group brings in September.

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Today’s theme was making super teddies, using a range of the skills they have learnt.  The children collected leaves to make a headband for their bears (from home, and all three of mine insisted on bringing white ones!!).  Then they hammered leaves onto fabric to make patterned capes.  The children could also saw a cross section of log, drill a hole in it, and decorate it as a medallion for their bear.  Superbear was then able to use a zip wire (complete with carabiner) to travel to his destinations.   After that the kelly kettles were all lit….we love doing this, but our success doesn’t match our enthusiasm.  However, eventually, and after a couple of relights, we did get our hot squashes and hot chocolates.

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The children then foraged for some party food snacks hidden around the forest, finally finishing with a toasted marshmallow, and a little surprise gift hidden in a basket in the trees.  Forest school has been fantastic for all three of my little people, and they have developed so much since starting it back in January.

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