2.7 – Evaluate the key principles of play and their relevance to Forest School

Play England campaign for access to the freedom and space for children and young people to have opportunities to play throughout their childhood. The Play England publication Charter for Children’s is a good starting point for reading about the importance of, and unique value of, play.

The value of play is now so well established that it is enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Best Play document from the Children’s Play Council lists the Seven Play Objectives. The table below details these objectives along with how they are supported in a Forest School environment.

Description Forest School
Principle 1 The provision extends the choice and control that children have over their

play, the freedom they enjoy and the satisfaction they gain from it.

A key principle of forest school is that activities are child led and that children are able to opt in/out of activities and have input into and control over the direction of the session.
Principle 2 The provision recognises the child’s need to test boundaries and responds

positively to that need.

Forest school sessions are designed to encourage children to step outside of their comfort zone and into the zone of proximal development. Forest school leaders observe children and reactively respond to changing needs.
Principle 3 The provision manages the balance between the need to offer risk and the

need to keep children safe from harm.

Forest school sessions often involve ‘risky’ activities such as tree climbing or tool use. Risk assessments for forest school activities actively consider the benefits of any high risk activity in order to enable children to experience controlled risk taking.
Principle 4 The provision maximises the range of play opportunities. As forest school sessions take place all year the change of seasons and variations in weather alone provides a wealth of different play opportunities. Different sites will also feature varying terrain and geographical features and different plants and wildlife.
Principle 5 The provision fosters independence and self-esteem. Forest school sessions are designed to provide children with opportunities to develop independence. Activities are set to support self esteem by being challenging but realistically achievable. The woodland environment is also ideal for supporting independence. There is scope for children to be able to work and play far further from staff than in traditional schooling environments.
Principle 6 The provision fosters children’s respect for others and offers opportunities for social interaction. Respect for each other is a key principle in forest school sessions. Opportunities can easily be engineered to enable children to work with those they may not instinctively choose to. The woodland environment being far larger than traditional classroom environments though also allows children to separate and play and work in the groups they are comfortable with.
Principle 7 The provision fosters the child’s well-being, healthy growth and development, knowledge and understanding, creativity and capacity to learn. A driving principle of forest school is that it should approach children’s development holistically and support the development of the whole child.