Happy, Healthy Free Range Children

One week of swinging from branches was just not enough exercise (or rather, fun) for our Free Rangers, so this week on Forest School we extended it to explore what it meant to swing! Last week, if you haven't read my last blog (shame on you), detailed how the children started learning about exercise and health, and pushed themselves physically and mentally on the rope swings, as well as learning exercises and movements to aid them in tackling the assault courses. This proved to be loads of fun, especially the rope swing as it allowed the children to swing a huge distance (which was exhilarating enough on its own) but also many overcame feelings they couldn't achieve such a feat, and conquered their surroundings. With the successes of this week, I wanted to extend the previous week's theme and bolster it with more opportunities for the childhood favourite of swinging.

At Free Rangers we look at the whole child - a holistic view of childhood so to speak. From their educational development to their emotional and physical wellbeing, to the food they eat, even down to the water they drink, we believe our children are given the best start to the rest of their adventures. This is a view we extend toward Forest School and we look to aid in the whole of our children's individual development through mixed Forest School activities and a diverse learning environment. So we started this week's sessions in a similar vein with us recapping what we had experienced during the previous week's Forest School. We discussed again what it meant to be healthy, but featured more of the topic of exercise and how that is crucial to a healthy body and mind. So to start the session I made the child find their heartbeats. Some had interesting thoughts on the position of theirs, but on the whole they had trouble finding the beat. It was explained that the heart was idle at the time, due to the lack of exercise and stress. We would check again to see if it changed.

We moved on, again like last week, by stretching our bodies. Making sure they were ready for the challenges ahead. In order to help them, each movement was given a hilarious sound, as we tickled the sky, made ourselves as small as we could like seeds that grow, and as wide as an elephant. Once warmed up we practiced our assault course moves (giant's steps, small mouse steps, jumping like kangaroos and crawling like lions). The children ad-libbed some of these movements and chose parts of their surrounding to either jump off and stomp on to explore the sound. Once we were satisfied they had these moves perfected, we allowed the children to explore the different "swing stations". The Apple Tree swing and it's low branches remained from last week, as did our tall rope pulley but we also installed a hammock, and a 15 metre Slackline which was effectively more of a chin up bar. These stations were spread out over a distance so the children were not only getting excellent cardiovascular exertion from travelling between each activity, but their strength, stamina and muscle development were also tested from climbing and jumping, and pulling and pushing each other on the swings. When the children searched again for their heart beats they weren't hard to find. Although some still couldn't which worried me slightly...

Once the swings were completed, for the finale of the session we ventured down to the assault course to try out the new moves. They have worked really well, giving children confidence to walk unaided, but has also slowed down some of our more over-confident children into thinking about where their feet need to go.

The children made these activities their own, and it highlighted the strengths children have, and indeed areas of their development that can be helped along, whether this be confidence in their abilities, or the physical strain on some of the smaller members of the Den. However, the children also saw the opportunity to balance on the logs to practice their small steps as well as triumph on the 15 metre slack line by walking its length (which was harder than it seems!) Some children naturally shied away from the more risk orientated stations like the height of the rope pulley. But what really made me proud was how many of the children who still had a go. Even if they didn't go very high they still took that brave step to try and that for me is hugely important. Similarly once up there, the smiles through the shear exhilaration were too much to contain and they beamed whilst they swung. It was clear to see they enjoyed their time.

Another key moment for me this week was during the latter sessions where some children really tested their combined strength. We have some temporary tree trunks standing in for seats around our fire pit. Our super heros wanted to try and lift Red Fox but to no avail (I eat a large lunch). One of the smaller logs was tied onto the rope, and I challenged a few groups to work together as a team to pull the log off the ground. And would you believe it they managed. With cries of "heave!", my 8 little ants lifted a huge log off the ground and a good 10ft into the tree. What goes up must come down and taking the reigns from the kids we dropped the huge log to the grass below hearing and feeling the deep thud as it crashed to the floor. This was repeated several times! An excellent week all round and I can confirm that I've burnt some serious calories over these past few weeks I can tell you!

I am really chuffed with all my Forest Schoolers for challenging themselves for the better. High Fives all round.

Enjoy your weekends all!

Red Fox