When we decided to open a school in Colorado Springs, the forest school format was our natural choice as we see tremendous benefits for children in free play in a natural outdoor setting. Some of these benefits are more obvious than others. So I decided to start a series of posts on our blog about why spending time outdoors for children is so critical and not just for their general physical development, but for their mental development as well as mental health.
In the first post in this series I wanted to share with you some studies which focused on the connection between shortsightedness (officially referred to as “myopia”) and a lack of the time spent outdoors.
We are very excited to launch our Young Explorers hiking program for children ages 6-11 years old on Mondays and Tuesdays. The program is 2 hours and takes place every Monday and Tuesday from 2:00pm to 4:30pm. Children get to practice putting up a tent, learning’s basic outdoor skills such as identifying plants and animal tracks. And they get to do lot and lot of hiking on the beautiful trails of Palmer Lake!
Last week we had a post about the benefits of making play dough with children from scratch and sharing with you just how much they enjoy the process. In this post we want to share the actual recipe we use most commonly at the school, and what we use to color and decorate it naturally. This recipe uses only organic ingredients that are safe for touch as well as taste (although it really doesn’t taste very nice).
Remember that the beauty of this process is that you can fix anything about it — from color saturation to the consistency of the dough itself. And also remember that children will enjoy experimenting either way, whether or not you feel like everything is working out as you planned!
We wanted to quickly share with you a few pictures from the latest addition to the school’s outdoor space — the slackline! It’s been an absolute hit with kids of all ages. From the youngest to the oldest they just can’t keep away from it.
We highly recommend adding one to your home or daycare center. They are inexpensive and easy to set up. You can choose the height off the ground that you would like the ropes to be, as well as the length. It takes up less space than a trampoline, but can be just as much fun and challenging for balance. All you need is 2 strong trees or poles. We got ours at the Magic Cabin online store.
We also have some lovely videos on our Instagram account. You can find them pinned in Highlights, under School Premises.
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All in all it is an activity that gives a child a whole variety of skills to practice and sensations to experience.
Last week we had a lot of rainy chilly days here in Colorado. We still had our daily nature walks with the children at the school, but also got to spend a good share of time in the cabin warming up, being cozy and having fun learning things. We read books about eagles and the children had fun imagining being eagles and flying around catching fish. We played hide and seek, which turned into a game of an owl searching for little mice. And the children also built beautiful towers with wooden blocks. But the biggest hit of all was making our own play dough! Everyone loved it from the youngest kids to the oldest ones. Boys and girls were all engrossed into the creative process that is a bit of chemistry, a bit of cooking and a whole lot of artistry on their part!
So before we share the recipe and what we use to get different beautiful colors naturally or to decorate our creations we wanted to share what makes making the play-dough with children such a great activity that benefits and invokes many of their skills and sensations.
We are very excited to share with you all that as of today we are officially open!
We had our first group of little explorers and even though the weather was cold, windy and a bit grim the kids still went outside twice over the course of 4 hours at the school and did some good playing and lots and lots of running.
We will do a full reveal of the cabin and the playground area soon, but for now we wanted to share with you a few of the things we have set up for kids to enjoy.
We hope to see you and your little ones there soon. Come in and get a tour any time. You can schedule a tour over on this page.
We think for all of us living in the beautiful Colorado the therapeutic value of outdoors is a self-evident truth. Even a short hike or a picnic in the mountains leaves us feeling rested and relaxed and rejuvenated.
Our children, who aren’t yet tied to their offices, computers, work desks and cars, have no reason to spend their days in any environment other than the beautiful outdoors that is so nourishing.
Yet in today’s urban societies children are found spending more and more time indoors. Most daycare centers are located in the city limits and offer small enclosed playgrounds that are mostly bare of any vegetation and living things. Cities are built in such a way that children have very little freedom to explore the world outside their home or school or parent’s car out of concerns for their safety.
I think stories have tremendous influence on children. So what do our children learn after reading that story [Little Red Riding Hood]? Will they learn to respect and value living creatures and seek to co-exist, or do they walk away fearing wolves and feeling a little bit happy and relieved at wolf’s gruesome fate at the end of the story?
From Maria Arefieva, school’s visionary and co-founder:
Long before I became a mother I was a wildlife advocate. Through many hours of volunteer work for various nonprofit projects I learned not only how incredibly fascinating our wildlife is, but also the tragic story of its mismanagement that led to the near extinction of such iconic and magnificent creatures as the bald eagle, American bison and of course the majestic wolf.
It was heartbreaking to learn that with the arrival of European settlers the population of the beautiful and gentle bison went from about 50,000,000 down to just about 23 bison who managed to survive in central Yellowstone. From 50 million to 23 individuals! (source: Buffalo Field Campaign).
But the wild creature and story that touched my heart most was the wolf. It was after having read a story of a biologist in the former Soviet Union who in his studies ended up living for 2 years among a wolf pack. His story of acceptance into the pack and his life among the wolves and my further studies on this subject, including a visit to the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center, made me realize just how wrong the common conception of the wolf is and what a dear price this incredible animal paid for it.