Understanding the Danish Forest School Approach: Early Years Education in Practice

Understanding the Danish Forest School Approach: Early Years Education in Practice

Understanding the Danish Forest School Approach: Early Years Education in Practice

Understanding the Danish Forest School Approach: Early Years Education in Practice


Understanding the Danish Forest School Approach is a much needed source of information for those wishing to extend and consolidate their understanding of the Forest School Approach in Denmark and how it is used in the teaching and learning of young children. It will enable the reader to analyse the essential elements of this Approach to early childhood and its relationship to quality early years practice.

Exploring all areas of the curriculum including the social and political background to using nature pedagogy, the organisation of early years settings, the learning environment and risk management, this book:

  • describes the key principles of the Forest School approach to early childhood supported with examples and case studies;
  • provides students and practitioners with the relevant information about a key pedagogical influence on high quality early years practice in the United Kingdom;
  • highlights the key ideas that practitioners should consider when reviewing and reflecting on their own practice;
  • can be used as the basis for continuing professional development

Written to support the work of all those in the field of early years education and childcare, this is a vital text for students, early years and childcare practitioners, teachers, early years professionals, children's centre professionals, lecturers, advisory teachers, head teachers and setting managers.


In 1993 I was among a group of lecturers from Bridgwater College who took their early years students on a study trip to Denmark; we’d heard about the good practice there and wanted to see for ourselves what made it so good. I remember my first visit to a ‘skovbørnehave’ (forest kindergarten). I was totally bowled over by what I saw – children free to play and roam the wooded area beside their kindergarten. The children were confident and competent in their play, climbing trees and imaginatively making up games using the natural materials around them, and although there was a language barrier, they took delight in showing their skills and knowledge. I remember seeing a child high up in one of the trees, and I called to a pedagogue close by, ‘there’s a child high in the tree’; the pedagogue replied, ‘yes, there is’. Horrified, I said, ‘but they may fall out!’; ‘yes,’ said the pedagogue, ‘they might, but they don’t usually!’

At first I thought about how the pedagogues could allow children to take such risks and why they seemed so unconcerned that an accident might happen. Now, 18 years later, I understand why; children need to start to develop their physical skills and agility at an early age, and alongside that, with support and encouragement from the pedagogues, develop their understanding of how to assess risks and challenges. Children generally do not climb higher that they feel comfortable with and do not like pain and fear.

After the study trip a ‘forest school’ was started for Bridgwater College’s children’s centre; the concept spread and there are now forest schools in many parts of the UK. The term ‘forest school’ was a made-up English name for what we had seen in Denmark; there are no ‘forest schools’ as such in Denmark, what you will read about in this book are ‘skovbørnehaver’, (forest or wood kindergarten) ‘skovgruppe’ (forest or wood groups), ‘naturbørnehaver’ (nature kindergartens) and ordinary early . . .

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