When children develop skills while outdoors, they become more confident and capable. Children feel powerful when they have an opportunity to engage in experiences that can be risky and safe. Take a look at these two photos. What are the children experiencing in the first picture? What is the child experiencing in the second photo? What roles do you think are important for the early learning teachers involved?
Do you have childhood memories of sitting around a campfire? For many, these are very fond recollections. Children learn so much from campfire experiences such as building self- regulation skills through safe, risky play opportunities. Storytelling around a campfire is powerful. Stories are an essential teaching tool, used to engage children, to ignite their imagination and to peak their curiosity. Sitting in a circle with others who have shared an adventure builds community, connection and relationships. Sharing food cooked on a campfire adds to the excitement and thrill for children. For early learning teachers, this is a time to take on the role of supervisor, stage manager, planner, guide, advocate and partner. Supervision for safety comes first.
Tool use is a common experience in Norwegian preschools and in many forest schools. The tools are usually introduced gradually within structured safety protocols. Children learn about safety and then gain confidence as they use the tools while developing both gross and fine motor skills. Adults need to be comfortable and confident in tool use and have safety protocols in place prior to introducing tools to the children. In this case, early learning teachers are instructors, supervisors, guides and partners. Are you comfortable to use tools on your own? And with children? If you aren’t, what could you do to become more confident? Why is this an important learning skill during childhood? What happens if children do not acquire these skills during childhood? Can they be learned later in life?
In the Comments box, identify your perspectives on introducing children to tools and elements such as fire. What are the challenges of these types of experiences in your practice? How can early learning teachers gain comfort in offering these types of experiences to children?