Forest Kindergarten models a Forest School approach for the Early Years, and is based around child-centred learning through play. Forest Kindergarten offers young children frequent, regular play opportunities outdoors in a natural setting, often woodland, in almost all weathers throughout the year.

Scottish Forestry developed Forest Kindergarten to connect young children, staff and parents from Early Year’s establishments with their natural heritage. A Forest Kindergarten training course has been developed and is currently being delivered through teacher training colleges and universities. The course is based upon three variables – people, place and activities.

Most early years establishments adopting a Forest Kindergarten approach allocate one session per week, using trained staff to lead programmes. However, this can be increased to children being outdoors more than 80% of the time. Forest Kindergarten supports child-centred learning through play, in a ‘real world’ context, provides young children with freedom to explore, using multiple senses, promotes health and well-being, confidence and physical and emotional resilience, supports the acquisition of knowledge, skills and care for the natural heritage. It is not surprising that parents and carers are increasingly keen to see their children offered regular and frequent outdoor experiences.

Young children with Forest Kindergarten experience can progress naturally to other outdoor learning opportunities including Forest School programmes.


Forest Kindergarten aims to foster children’s connection to the natural world. By playing and learning about how to be outside, the children develop confidence and independence. Through a child-led approach, staff help children to cherish nature and learn about real life. Typical experiences include:

  • Simple investigations and explorations with minimal equipment, using natural materials as the learning resource.
  • Playing games, using the woodland for inspiration. Often these involve a lot of physical activity.
  • Having snack outside and foraging wild food.
  • Listening to stories and participating in songs, rhymes and simple games which help them learn how to be in nature.
  • Simple stewardship activities such as planting trees or bulbs or creating habitat piles for minibeasts, in agreement with the land owner or manager.
  • Having time to relax and chat with friends.
  • Observing simple wonders of the natural world such as discovering a worm emerging from soil or a bird flying overhead.
  • Setting up a tarpaulin shelter or adventure tipi.

There is a variety of training available which supports Early Years Practitioners including the Forest Kindergarten SQA:

These include:

Outdoor & Woodland Learning Scotland

OWL Scotland is a networking organisation for practitioners supported by Scottish Forestry which supports outdoor learning. OWL Scotland operates through local groups who provide CLPL and networking opportunities. Most groups run a programme of free training events throughout the year. Please subscribe to the OWL Scotland bulletin for updates and also join your local group.

Outdoor Learning Directory

The Outdoor Learning Directory is a signposting website which lists opportunities such as training, resources, events and funding for the partners from the Environment and Forestry Directorate (Scottish Forestry, Scottish Natural Heritage, Historic Environment Scotland, RBGE, Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park and Cairngorm National Park).

There is a summary of outdoor learning training opportunities listed here.

Inspiring Scotland

Inspiring Scotland support outdoor learning through their Thrive project.

Outdoor Nurseries and Not for Profit Organisations

A number of outdoor nurseries and other organisations offer training. See the summary of Outdoor Learning Training Available for Early Years Practitioners.

The OWL Scotland YouTube channel has a variety of helpful videos including a playlist on: Sustainable Site Management; Hitches, Knots and Lashings; plus Ropes and Shelters.

For further information email

Scottish Forestry run Training the Trainer courses for colleges and Universities that wish to teach the Forest Kindergarten SQA module.
Please contact for further information.

Outdoor Learning including Forest School and Forest Kindergarten can happen in urban and rural locations. The minimum required is an outdoor site with natural features including some trees and shelter. In some cases, school grounds can make an ideal starting point. You should be best able to judge suitability of a site for your needs. However, even if you think a wood may be ideal you must check with the landowner or manager that they agree to its use. See the OWL Scotland Guidance for Landowners.

If you don’t know who owns the woodland contact your local  Scottish Forestry Conservancy office or to use a wood for educational visits, try your local Forestry and Land Scotland Office.

There is more information on Site Selection, and Access and Landowner Agreements 1  and 2 on the OWL Scotland YouTube channel.

Other ways to find and record information about your Forest School site – Explore your local area – what green spaces can you find? Look at local maps. Use online satellite mapping online to identify possible sites.

Scotland’s Greenspace Map is an innovative Geographical Information System (GIS) based map which provides comprehensive information on the location, extent and type of greenspace across all of Scotland’s urban settlements (towns and cities with a population of 3,000 or more).

Education Scotland has an online site search facility for Places to Learn Outdoors

VisitWoods is an interactive website developed by the Woodland Trust showcasing local woods. The site includes searchable maps, inspiring ideas, free activities and space to upload your photos and tips.

The sustainable management of local spaces used regularly for learning and play : A case study report for Scottish Forestry

Woodland Learning


Careers in Forestry