My oldest child will be starting her fourth year attending a one-day-a-week forest school this week and (very exciting!) this is the first year our middle child will be attending as well. I cannot overstate the massive contribution the forest school experience has made to our homeschool and to the development of my oldest child. It is a cornerstone of our homeschool!
Not familiar with what a forest school is? This post is a helpful overview of the concept. I just love this quote from the post: “Forest School is a feeling you can’t put into words.” Tonicha, aged 9
One of the keys to making forest school a positive experience for my kiddo has been equipping her with the right gear. Here in the Pacific Northwest she is often out in cold and rainy weather. Like, a lot of rain. For five or six hours. But when I pick her up she is always bubbling with the excitement of the day – never once has she been miserable from the weather.
We have tried quite a few different brands for different key items, and I recently compiled a list of our favorites for some friends who will be joining forest school for the first time this year. I thought I would share it with all of you!
The key to a child having a great experience at an all-day, all-weather nature program is the clothes and gear they have!
It is key to start with a wool base layer. After trying several brands, we love Icebreaker. The stuff is comfy and not itchy, the pants have a solid waistband so they don’t sag and they are machine washable and can go in the dryer! Woot! Wear wool on the top and bottom.
For rain pants or rain suits we have loved the gear from Oakiwear and Polarn O. Pyret. The one-piece rainsuit from Oakiwear is great for boys, but not ideal for girls who may need to squat in the woods to pee. For girls I prefer the rain pants. We also like the rain pants from Polarn O. Pyret – they have suspenders which helps with rain coverage when squatting or sitting in the grass. These seem to run a bit on the big side – FYI. I recently bought size 6-8 for my big five-year-old thinking they would last him a few years and they comfortably fit my nine-year-old.
Shoes. Bogs! Bogs are easy to put on, super comfortable and if you get the insulated kind they are warm. My kids sled and snowshoe in their Bogs.
The best gloves I have found are from Polarn O. Pyret. They are not 100% wool but almost all gloves are 100% acrylic and these are actually warm. If your kids are prone to losing gloves, they have these clips.
So what does a kid wear to forest school? How does this all get put together? It depends on the weather. During warm fall and spring days my kids will go in a light base layer (think leggings or sweatpants) plus rain pants if there’s a chance they will be playing somewhere muddy. During the coldest part of the winter they will dress with these layers:
- Base layer (wool Icebreaker top and bottoms and wool socks)
- Second layer (leggings or sweatpants plus a long-sleeved shirt or turtleneck)
- Wool sweater (we use mama-made here) or a fleece jacket
- Top layer (rain pants, rain coat, rain boots, gloves and hat)
One more thing to mention – it is hugely helpful to send kids with a warm lunch in the coldest weather. I really like the kid-sized Thermos for sending soups and stews.
I should mention that my kids use this gear all the time – not just for forest school. We go on adventures as a family and it is so much easier to get out the door when they know just what they need to wear to stay warm and dry.
Exploring outdoors in all weather offers such huge benefits for children. And when kids are happy and comfortable outside it makes it so much more appealing! I hope this list is helpful to you as you too perhaps gear up for outdoor adventures this year!
If you’re interested in reading more about the benefits of prioritizing the amount of time children spend outside, I highly recommend these books: