Friday, 30 March 2012

Lazy Summer Days

I love the way that each session of Forest Tots is subtley different.  Some weeks are adventure weeks, and we go exploring and looking for blue pigs in the bamboo jungle, some are stream weeks and there are whoops of joy, splashing and excitement from the stream.  Other weeks are about climbing, be it trees or slopes, but this week was much calmer and stiller than we have had in the last few months.  I think much of that was down to the the younger age range of the children, but it was a session where the mums could really sit and enjoy a cup of tea and soak up some of the sunshine.

We didn't have a fire this week, but the log circle was still well used, and the smell of wild garlic was unavoidable, and wonderful!

We brought some water up from the stream for the smaller ones to play in, and apparently it was a bit of a hit!
There was still splashing in the stream with the older ones, but there was a definite feeling of the lazy summer afternoons to come.

We are hoping that people will start to join us for picnic lunches before Forest Tots next term, as we know that it can be a bit of a tricky time for people with naps and lunches to sort out.

Just a reminder that we won't be meeting next week, Good Friday, but we will be back on the 13th.  It will still be school holidays, so there may be some slightly larger small people joining us as well.

Friday, 23 March 2012


When we saw today's forecast earlier this week, we always knew it might be busy. But I don't think we had quite anticipated just how busy. I mean it was twenty one families busy!!! And given that several of those has more than one child we must have had 25 or so kids playing in the stream today. Go Forest Tots! I hope they all had a great time?

As I made my way round the garden today what struck me was the number of really little children quietly getting on with the business of exploring the woodland. Our group often seems to suit the over two year olds best - once they are really steady on their feet and can run and climb and jump this group is outdoor perfection for them. At least that was what I had assumed. Today I realised that even the littler tots can have an amazing time in the garden if the parents are relaxed enough to let them try! As a mother of three little boys I know it can be difficult to let your kids really explore the great outdoors with all their senses - I find myself swinging between worrying about the HUGE washing pile being created and whether my baby should eat mud or not! Not that he gives me much choice in the matter - I either relax and let him experiment with what stones taste like, or strap him kicking and screaming into the buggy!

So seeing these three tots getting so stuck in today really made me smile! So here's to the Forest's Tiniest Forest Tots......

Friday, 16 March 2012

Splishing and splashing all day long!

 The joy of watching things float away!


As I watched the children playing in the stream today I suddenly realised both how much these kids are learning as they play in the water, but also how intangible that learning is. There is no way to measure or record this sort of free play, to quantify what is taking place in terms of the child's development. But I have absolutely no doubt that the learning going on in our stream today was of the 'hugely important sort'. As you watch you can see ideas and theories formed and then tested. Personal comfort zones explored, problems solved and interpersonal interactions tested. One little girl spent over half an hour throwing bottles containing food dyed water into the stream. Over and over and over. As an adult watching on it is easy to theorise that she is learning about flight paths, trajectories and speed, that she was testing her strength and practising her aim. Or maybe she was just totally immersed in the joy of seeing things splash. The thing is we'll never know. But we do know that she had fun! That's the really great thing about being a toddler group (as opposed to a formal learning setting) is we have no need to justify what we do beyond the fact that the kids love it. That for us is justification enough!

It is clear that not everybody who visits the group understands what it is we do here. Many many families only come the once, whilst others become huge fans and return week after week after week. But it is nearly impossible to tell into which category families will fall when you first meet them. It seems that when it comes to enjoying free play in the stream and woods there is no stereotype. We love it that way...but it does make advertising the group tricky when we have no idea where to 'find' people! I have to keep reminding myself that it is still only March and we have only been running properly for about 10 weeks so there is plenty of time for us to build our numbers...but still I worry that we won't have enough families to keep us solvent through the winter months. So if you're local and have enjoyed the group, or think you know somebody who would, please spread the word! We have leaflets which you can have to hand out and posters to go in shop/car windows, all we need now is an army of willing volunteers to deliver them!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Garden Painting.

Painting with really little kids can be hard work. I'm sure if you've ever tried it you know how this goes...

1. You get all the paints out into the little pots, find brushes and paper, cover the table to keep it clean and dress your tot in a painting apron. (Time taken - about 20 mins)
2. Your Tot sits at the table, daubs paint all over a piece of paper until it has a wet hole in it. (Time taken - about 5 minutes.)
3. Your Tot sees the curtains/table/carpet/cat and decides that they need a face lift. (Time taken....until you mange to stop them!)
4. You remove your tot from the rapidly spreading paint disaster zone and attempt to clean them up. Now your bathroom looks like the scene of a poster paint explosion too! (Time taken - 10 minutes)
5. You attempt to find something to occupy your tot whilst you deal with THE PAINT which can take anything up to about an hour depending how far the cat has spread it!

Add in owning cream coloured carpets and the fact that the peacefully sleeping baby is just bound to wake up half way through and need you now and I think it is perfectly understandable to admit that painting with tots can be stressful!

So in this household....we take our painting outside. I dress the Tots (age 3 and age 14 months) in waterproofs and wellies/boots. Then we head out with our painting box and some brushes.

Past experience has taught us that paper rarely works in the outdoors. If it is either windy or wet which makes paper annoying to work with. So get creative and try other painting surfaces. Wood works really well, as do stones, the patio or an old sheet secured to a table or fence.

Today we are painting sticks and broken up pallets....

Big Tot starts the fun...

...whilst little tot looks on in envy! 

 As little tot is too unstable to stand on a chair I move
 the painting down to his level

and big tot soon comes down to join in the mess making art !!

Oh look! Still it makes a change from painting the curtains! 

 Joy of joys! Little tot is copying his big brother!

Let's attempt to curb the clothing painting game with a new stick to decorate shall we?

The big tot suddenly decides that he want to clean off his wellies and heads to the garden tap. He turns it on (on his own) then attempts to attach the hose pipe with it running. I try hard not to laugh at him as he gets very wet! But he eventually succeeds and starts to clean his wellies off with the hose.

"Look Mummy it's working!"

Giggling..."that tickles"

"I can hear the rain coming down"

Then Big Tot helped me clean up the painting stuff in a bucket before we headed back inside. We spent a total of about two hours outside, busy with our painting initiated play. They had a great time, got to create some 'art work', got messy, got wet, then helped to clean up afterwards. I am certain they must have learnt something along the way!? And me? I got as relatively stress free art session as is possible, and never had to step in to squash their creativity as the mess will wash away next time it rains. In fact all I did all afternoon was take photos!

So try it! Grab your paints, a set of waterproofs and get outside to do some art! We'd love to see how you got on - so leave us a comment xxx


Friday, 9 March 2012


We had a lot of co-operation rattling around the Forest Tots Garden today. After snack time I was the lucky witness to two of our older kids and one of the two year olds all scrambling and sliding on one of the steep banks. And helping each other! And loving it! I think it was an extra special moment as the older two were including a much younger child so readily xxx

We also spent a good bit of time this week round the campfire with marshmallows. I think it may have been the first taste of this campfire treat for some of the little ones. How nice is it to see a group of such small children gathered carefully and sensibly around a fire together like that? The fire had burnt down really low - it was little more than hot ashes, allowing the children to get close without the risk of sparks etc. Such a lot of learning going on, right from experiencing the fire close up to 'cooking' their own snack, sharing space safely and considerately and that sense of community that a campfire always brings. Great stuff!

The 'big' kids are getting more and more adventurous. These lot have just turned three and are now branching out away from the stream and into the rest of the garden on their own. I love how they are taking these little steps in their own time and at their own pace. Just after this shot was taken a curious dog turned up on the other side of the fence and sent them all scarpering for safety! What an adventure!!

We also welcomed into the Forest Garden today three families from about an hour away from here who are considering setting up their own Outdoor Toddler group just over the Welsh border. They came to visit to see what it is that we 'do', how we use the space we have and how much paperwork there is! We wish them every success in getting their venture up and running and will let you all know their contact details once they are operational.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Springing into Spring!

There was a buzz in the Forest tots garden this afternoon. The happy buzz of children playing and adults chatting. The sound of laughter as banter was exchanged across the stream, through the bushes and around the campfire. It was a good noise, and it lifted my spirits enormously. After a long winter of putting so much effort into getting Forest Tots up and running, both at the group and behind the scenes, it was so so good to see that work really beginning to blossom.

I think the photos say it all really. The kids are beginning to really settle into the space we have. The mud kitchen was busy churning out 'food' all afternoon. We had pine cone sausages, mud ice cream with stick wafers and endless cups of hot mudchocolate!! The stream was busy too, and I think it was a huge relief for us 'grown ups' to not have to worry quite so much about the potential for hypothermia!

Enjoy the photos, if you'd like a copy of something then please E-mail us through the website. And we'll see you all next week!

This week we are joining in with the Outdoor Play Party over on the Learning for life Blog. Click on the button to pop over and see what everyone else in blog land has been doing in the great outdoors.
Learning for  Life