Many of us in the UK woke up to a blanket of snow and predictably many schools closed and a Snow Day was declared. Hooray!
If the snow is severe enough to cancel school then it’s safe to say that you probably shouldn’t be heading off into the woods with a group of children. The added weight of snow on branches and shelters can make them more vulnerable to collapse and it’s best to stay away. However, there are times and weather conditions that mean that snow, school and forest school all happen, you’ve done your site check and the woods are looking lovely (and safe!). So how are you going to navigate this new-found wonderland so that you and your group have a fantastic time that doesn’t end in tears?
1. Layer up
The difference that one extra item of clothing makes is immense, especially if that item of clothing is on an extremity such as a hand or foot. Wellies aren’t known for their insulating properties so an extra pair of socks is a must. And gloves are always handy (sorry…) but remember that unless they’re waterproof, they will become wet very quickly while playing in snow so a spare, dry pair is essential.
2. Redirect excited behaviour
Even adults get excited about snow so asking children of any age to be sensible on the rare occasion we experience it is likely to be a losing battle. They key here is to think about ways for you to all get what you want. For example, throwing snowballs at a target is safer than throwing them at people.
3. Embrace what you’ve got
We’re all used to slipping and sliding in mud and so ice may not be the challenge we think it is. Talk to your groups about what to expect and ways of moving across icy areas. I’ve you’ve ever indulged in mud slides then you may well be able to have a snow slide. On the plus side, once mud freezes it becomes easier to walk on and it’s likely that your forest school site is easier to navigate as a result.
4. Find ways to create warmth
Get the fire on, have hot drinks and full tummies and keep them moving. But what do you do if one of your group really starts to feel the cold? If they’re wearing wellies then a bucket of hot water (regularly topped up with water from the kettle or a thermos) can be really handy for frozen feet. Simply stand them, wellies and all, in the bucket and let the warm water do its job. I used to have a collection of round pebbles that we would keep in a pan of warm water by the fire that we used as hand warmers on cold days.
5. Know when to call it quits
We all know that forest school takes place in all seasons and all weathers, but this should come with a caveat: until it stops being fun. If the majority of your group is unhappy then there is no point in carrying on for the sake of it. And remember, the younger your group is, the closer they are to the cold ground and the less likely they are to be able to tell you they’re feeling cold.
Do you have any top tips for snowy forest school sessions? Let me know in the comments below .