Need a perfect paper? Place your first order and save 5% with this code:   SAVE5NOW

A Critical Discussion of Barriers to Outdoor Play in Forest School During Early Childhood Education


Many people in the field of early childhood education have considered Forest Schools. Outdoor, child-initiated learning is emphasized in forest schools, which have their roots in the Scandinavian tradition of outdoor education (Knight, 2013). Schools like this are often situated in natural settings, such as forests, where children may benefit from many immersive, hands-on learning opportunities. Forest Schools encourage kids to think creatively, be adaptable, and show resilience by participating in unstructured activities (Waite, 2017). Playing outside is important for kids because it helps them develop motor control and social interaction while inspiring new kinds of imaginative and risk-taking play. The American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes the play’s positive effects on children’s mental, physical, social, and emotional well-being (Milteer et al., 2012). In this context, Forest Schools stand out as an innovative option because of their central role in outdoor play in the curriculum. As an alternative to more traditional types of early childhood education, which may lack the means to offer sufficient time and space for children to learn outside, Forest Schools have emerged as a popular choice. This promotes growth in motor abilities, coordination, imagination, problem-solving, social interaction, and a sense of belonging to one’s natural surroundings. Forest Schools are educational programs that use the outdoors as a classroom, capitalizing on children’s many benefits from playing in natural settings to foster their overall growth and development in all areas. The benefits of Forest Schools have been well studied, but putting them into practice is not without its share of obstacles. Significant obstacles that these schools confront include the uncertainty of the outside environment, the chance for academic material to be delayed, and a need for more resources (Kahn, 2020). Parents and teachers may worry about their children’s safety in the unpredictable and unstructured outdoor environments typical of Forest Schools because of the possibility of encounters with weather, animals, and other natural forces. The risk that educational material may be released late is another difficulty. Concerns have been raised that the emphasis placed on child-led, nature-centered learning at Forest Schools might cause pupils to fall behind in the more conventional courses taught in most schools. In addition, more resources might be needed. Implementing a Forest School program in some regions may be difficult due to a lack of suitable outdoor space, access to relevant natural resources, or funding for necessary specialist equipment. Educators, parents, and legislators in the UK and others must be aware of and work to mitigate these concerns as Forest Schools gain popularity. This guarantees the schools’ successful operation and enhances their advantages, paving the path for more holistic and nature-centered education. This paper will explore alternative education by focusing on Forest Schools as a child-led, nature-based alternative to traditional preschool programs. Despite their numerous benefits, these schools encounter significant challenges that require careful consideration before fully integrating into the mainstream educational system. Key challenges encompass apprehensions regarding safety, potential delays in academic content delivery, and resource insufficiencies.

Outdoor play in Forest school education

2.1 Definition of Forest School

Forest Schools, rooted in Scandinavian outdoor educational traditions, provide a nature-centered, child-led learning environment that fosters holistic development. Outdoor play and discovery are emphasized as crucial components of a child’s education at these schools (O’Brien, 2020). Therefore, students participate in hands-on activities in natural environments like woodlands or forests. By immersing children in natural settings, Forest Schools create opportunities for cognitive, emotional, and social growth while fostering critical skills like creativity, adaptability, and resilience. The method is consistent with studies demonstrating the value of play for kids’ growth and development. According to NPR’s research highlighted in their 2014 article, “Scientists Say Child’s Play Helps Build a Better Brain,” children who play in an imaginative, exploratory manner often have more developed executive function, which is crucial for cognitive control and problem-solving. Children learn invaluable skills beyond the classroom as they engage with their environment, experiment with natural materials, and manage the intricacies of the natural world.

Children are free to learn and explore their environment at their own pace in Forest Schools, distinguished from traditional classrooms by the teachers’ decision to assume the role of facilitators rather than leaders. Children are taught to explore their environment and develop skills like plant and animal identification, shelter construction, and using found objects to create art. Children benefit from a wide range of sensory experiences and chances to build cognitive, physical, and social abilities through these hands-on activities, which are based on the principles of experiential learning. Forest schools also help kids feel closer to nature, which is becoming widely acknowledged as being important to kids’ health and growth (O’Brien & Murray, 2007). Forest Schools are reshaping the educational landscape by giving children more agency over their learning within a natural setting (Harris, 2018). This more holistic approach to education places a premium on children’s natural curiosity and affinity with the natural world.

The child-centered learning environment of a Forest School provides benefits across the board for a child’s personal growth and development (Harris, 2022). Forest Schools’ physical environment facilitates children’s physical development, with uneven terrain and natural barriers that encourage them to climb, leap, and explore their surroundings. This exercise is great for a person’s health and development, encouraging them to move about and use their muscles. In addition, the hands-on aspect of Forest Schools, where students build forts and learn to identify plants, fosters critical thinking, problem-solving, and imaginative growth in young learners. Children’s brains flourish when they can actively participate in the world around them because it forces them to observe, evaluate, and create connections. Forest schools promote intellectual and physical development and social growth thanks to their open, cooperative atmosphere. Through participation in group projects, kids are given opportunities to interact with and learn from their classmates. Children learn to engage with others, make friends, and handle the intricacies of social situations with the guidance of this Forest School staple (Warden, 2015). Forest schools offer a complex, diverse approach to early childhood education that considers the interconnectivity of several aspects of a child’s development, including physical, cognitive, and social growth.

Forest Schools foster vital life skills that cannot be taught in a stuffy classroom by putting children in charge of their education. Children learn to think critically, analyze circumstances, and create effective solutions when they engage with the natural world and overcome various obstacles (Waite, 2020). Forest school students are more likely to develop original ideas because a rigid curriculum does not stifle them. Instead, they can discover the world around them on their terms. Forest Schools provide students with various unstructured activities and experiences that inspire creativity and free play. In addition, the forest is a dynamic and unpredictable environment that teaches youngsters to adjust to new circumstances, take on problems head-on, and gain wisdom from their mistakes. This helps youngsters develop the psychological and emotional strength they need to persevere in hardship. Through developing critical thinking, imagination, and perseverance in children, Forest Schools help them become well-rounded individuals who can confidently take on the challenges of adulthood (and life) (Constable, 2012).

2.2 The Application of Child Development Theory and Sociocultural Theory in Outdoor Play in Forest School

Outdoor Play in Forest School is consistent with constructivism and sociocultural theory, two approaches to child development that emphasize children’s first-hand experiences and interactions with others. According to the constructivist perspective espoused by thinkers like Jean Piaget (Waite-Stupiansky, 2022), children actively create their knowledge by interacting with the world around them. Forest Schools are a prime example of this method since they place children in a natural setting and provide them with opportunities for hands-on learning experiences that help them become aware of the world by interacting with it (Aljohani, 2017). Furthermore, Zhang’s sociocultural theory emphasizes the significance of social interaction and cultural background in learning (Zhang, 2018). Outdoor Play establishes a social atmosphere where students learn from one another’s experiences and conversations by encouraging cooperation and collaboration among them. Children are encouraged to learn from their peers and the adults guiding them. Outdoor Play in Forest Schools is a comprehensive approach to education that fosters children’s cognitive, emotional, and social development because they emphasize experiential learning and social interaction grounded on constructivist and sociocultural ideas.

Outdoor play practices emphasize group work and problem-solving in the open air and exemplify sociocultural theory. Ilieva and Terzieva (2019) point out that Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory, which emphasizes the significance of social interactions and cultural environment in cognitive development, is reflected in the pedagogical practices of Outdoor Play in Forest Schools. As children learn to negotiate, collaborate, and sympathize with one another, their social skills and emotional intelligence flourish under this methodology. According to The Atlantic, children attending Outdoor Play develop better problem-solving abilities, flexibility, and resilience because of the abundance of unstructured, imaginative play possibilities. Children can try new problem-solving strategies and grow from their achievements and setbacks. This type of play sparks children’s imaginations because they are encouraged to think critically and develop original answers to problems. Children at Outdoor Play gain valuable life skills through collaborative problem-solving and creative play that will help them in all aspects of their lives.

Barriers to Outdoor play of Forest School education

Forest Schools are part of a rising movement in early childhood education, moving from the typical classroom setting to more outdoor settings. Forest schools are an alternative to traditional education, emphasizing outdoor education, student independence, and a close relationship with nature. This change in teaching methodology can improve students’ academic performance and social skills while inspiring an enduring appreciation for the natural world (Boileau & Dabaja, 2020). However, there are challenges to implementing and scaling this instructional methodology. One obstacle is the dominance of neoliberal ideology, which places a premium on test scores, grades, and market-driven policies at the expense of more comprehensive forms of education. According to its detractors (Pimlott-Wilson & Coates, 2019), the neoliberal agenda has proven harmful to children’s well-being and creativity because it restricts their freedom to learn about themselves and the world. Therefore, using Outdoor Play provides a counter-narrative to the prevalent neoliberal ideology in education, pushing instead for a more holistic and child-centered approach. There is pushback to moving preschool and kindergarten classes outside since it goes against the grain of long-held beliefs and habits. Therefore, it is vital to critically assess the advantages and disadvantages of this pedagogical shift, bearing in mind the impact of neoliberal thought on our understanding and valuation of education.

Safety issues

One of the principal concerns hindering the wide adoption of Outdoor Play education is the potential safety risks associated with unpredictable outdoor factors, such as weather changes and wildlife encounters. Forest Schools, with their focus on offering children authentic, hands-on experiences in natural settings, inevitably confront the unpredictability of the outdoor environment. While these settings present valuable learning opportunities, they also come with risks, such as sudden weather changes or unexpected wildlife encounters, that can threaten children’s safety (Hawxwell et al., 2019). Balancing the benefits of risk-taking in play with the need to ensure children’s safety is a critical consideration in the Outdoor Play approach. An NPR article underscores that allowing children to engage in risky play is essential for their cognitive and physical development. However, it must be done within a safe environment (Scientists Say Child’s Play Helps Build a Better Brain, 2014). Thus, while Forest Schools aim to preserve the core of their experiential approach, addressing these safety concerns is paramount to providing a holistic and secure learning environment. The challenge lies in finding a middle ground that maintains the integrity of the Outdoor play experience while ensuring that children are protected from undue harm.

From a neoliberal perspective, the changing landscape of educational institutions has been significantly influenced by concerns about litigation and liability linked to outdoor risks, altering their approach to risk management (Leather, 2018; Malone, 2007). In this context, safety concerns have taken center stage, resulting in a heightened emphasis on safeguarding children from potential harm and legal repercussions. However, the unintended consequence of this cautious approach is the potential compromise of the core principles of Outdoor Play education. The philosophy of Forest Schools champions the idea that children should engage with certain risks autonomously, fostering resilience and problem-solving abilities. Neoliberal ideologies prioritizing safety and measurable outcomes may inadvertently stifle opportunities for children to develop these vital life skills through exploration and risk-taking. Striking a balance between ensuring safety and maintaining the integrity of the Outdoor Play approach poses a complex challenge as educators and institutions navigate the delicate equilibrium between risk and growth in early childhood education.

3.2 Delay in academic content

Outdoor Play, known for its unique pedagogical approach, prioritizes independent and nature-centric learning, immersing children in experiential activities in natural environments. While this approach has its merits, it has also been criticized. Some critics argue that the immersive nature of Outdoor Play may delay students’ exposure to traditional academic content (Roe & Aspinall, 2011). This lack of alignment with mainstream educational curricula could potentially disadvantage students when they transition back into traditional schools or are required to participate in standardized testing environments. Consequently, concerns have been raised about whether the Outdoor Play approach sufficiently prepares children to meet the academic demands they will face in formal schooling. This debate underscores the tension between unconventional pedagogies, such as those employed in Outdoor Play, and the established norms of mainstream education systems (Boileau & Dabaja, 2020).

The ongoing tension between Forest Schools’ pedagogical approach and mainstream educational norms reflects the broader debate about alternative educational methods within the education system. Outdoor Play, characterized by its emphasis on independent and nature-centric learning, diverges from the conventional focus on a structured academic curriculum during early childhood education. Critics argue that adhering to established academic timelines and curricula is crucial for equipping children with the necessary academic foundations for future formal schooling (Blackwell, 2015). However, proponents of Outdoor Play argue that their unique approach nurtures critical life skills and fosters holistic development, which is equally important. This ongoing debate between supporters of alternative educational methods, such as Forest Schools, and those who advocate for established educational norms underscores the need for a more inclusive and comprehensive understanding of the diverse ways in which children can learn and develop. It is essential to recognize that multiple pedagogical approaches can coexist and contribute to children’s overall well-being and development.

The emphasis on a structured curriculum and standardized testing in neoliberal educational models may contribute to skepticism toward the Outdoor Play approach. Neoliberal educational models, driven by a strong emphasis on measurable outcomes, often cast doubt on alternative pedagogies like Outdoor Play that deviate from the established academic structure (Ball, 2012). In the mainstream educational landscape, quantifiable academic achievements hold prominence, aligning with the need for clear benchmarks and assessments. In contrast, the less quantifiable benefits of free play and experiential learning central to Outdoor Play, such as nurturing creativity, problem-solving skills, and resilience, can face skepticism due to their qualitative nature (Rosin, 2014). The challenge for Forest Schools lies in effectively communicating that their pedagogical approach, though divergent from mainstream norms, is equally, if not more, effective in preparing children for academic and broader life challenges. As they navigate this challenge, Outdoor Play exemplifies the struggle to balance adhering to established paradigms and embracing innovative educational approaches.

3.3 Resource constraints

The successful establishment of Forest School education largely hinges on the availability of certain key resources, with expansive outdoor spaces being paramount. This becomes a significant obstacle in contemporary urban environments or areas with limited green spaces. Outdoor Play, inherently grounded in the principles of authentic, hands-on experiences in nature, views access to extensive outdoor areas not as a bonus but as an absolute necessity. In densely populated areas, securing appropriate outdoor spaces for such educational initiatives can be a daunting task, making implementing Outdoor Play pedagogy a formidable challenge. The quest for suitable spaces underscores the practical difficulties faced by Outdoor Play and highlights the tension between the ideals of nature-centric education and the realities of urban development (Tovey, 2007).

In addition to requiring expansive outdoor spaces, Forest Schools face the challenge of sourcing a diverse array of natural materials and appropriate equipment essential for hands-on, experiential learning. The ethos of Outdoor Play is rooted in using natural resources to facilitate authentic learning experiences; however, accessing these resources can be a significant obstacle, especially in areas with limited natural settings. In such locales, obtaining the necessary materials involves considerable logistical and financial burdens (Fjortoft, 2001). Additionally, the need for specialized equipment to support outdoor learning activities can further strain the resources of these schools. These multifaceted challenges underscore the complexities encountered by Forest Schools as they seek to adhere to their educational philosophy while navigating the practical limitations of their geographical and resource context (Gundersen,2016).

From a neoliberal perspective, the distribution of resources, particularly within the public sector, is frequently tied to demonstrable returns and concrete outcomes (Harvey, 2005). This emphasis on tangible results, often evaluated through standardized testing, can pose challenges for Outdoor Play methodologies, which prioritize holistic development and may not align neatly with quantifiable metrics. Consequently, securing essential financial and infrastructural backing might be an uphill battle for Forest Schools. Overcoming these barriers necessitates a significant shift in mindset—one that acknowledges and appreciates the multifaceted advantages of nature-centric education (Sandseter, 2009). By broadening the scope of evaluation to encompass the comprehensive developmental gains offered by Forest Schools, educational systems can pave the way for a more inclusive and diverse range of learning approaches that cater to the varied needs of students.

Case study 1: Outdoor play of Forest School in Denmark

Forest Schools are deeply embedded in the culture and a crucial element of early childhood education in Denmark. The Forest School philosophy, centered on outdoor play and learning, aligns with Denmark’s holistic approach to child development, which strongly emphasizes physical activity, connecting with nature, and experiential learning (Williams-Siegfredsen, 2017). Despite the country’s widespread acceptance and successful implementation of the Forest School model, certain challenges remain. These obstacles, including resource constraints, spatial limitations, and variable access to natural settings, can impact children’s potential benefits from these outdoor educational experiences. As a result, ongoing efforts are needed to address these challenges to ensure the continued success and effectiveness of Forest Schools in fostering holistic development in young children.

The most pronounced obstacle in Denmark’s Forest Schools is the stringent safety regulations that occasionally conflict with the philosophy of outdoor play. While safety regulations are undeniably essential in ensuring the well-being of children participating in Forest School activities, they can sometimes clash with the underlying philosophy of outdoor learning that naturally involves a degree of risk-taking. According to Waite (2017), finding a delicate balance between ensuring safety and maintaining the core principles of outdoor play is important. The YouTube video cited exemplifies how Danish Forest Schools strike this balance, showcasing children immersed in freedom and exploration (SBS Dateline, 2016). As the video highlights, Forest Schools must allow children to explore their surroundings and test their boundaries, all within the confines of a safe, controlled environment. By achieving this balance, Danish Forest Schools can adhere to necessary safety regulations while promoting the benefits of risk-taking as an integral part of children’s outdoor learning experiences.

The standardized test culture, another obstacle, opposes the core tenets of Forest Schools. Although standardized testing is less prevalent in Denmark than in other countries, it still exists within the education system. It can be at odds with the Forest School ethos, which emphasizes experiential and holistic learning rather than solely focusing on academic achievement (Bentsen & Jensen, 2012). The Forest School approach encourages children to explore, learn from nature, and develop critical life skills, which may not align with the metrics used to assess success in standardized tests. While Danish Forest Schools continue to flourish and gain popularity, the broader emphasis on standardized testing within the education system may be a barrier to fully adopting the Forest School philosophy. This tension underscores the need for a more comprehensive understanding of education that encompasses various learning methods and recognizes the value of alternative approaches like Forest Schools (Remmen & Iversen, 2022).

Socioeconomic differences also impede the equitable implementation of Forest School programs. Socioeconomic disparities can limit access to Forest Schools, particularly since these educational settings require significant resources, including access to natural environments and specialized educators. While Denmark is known for its lower socioeconomic differences compared to other countries, disparities still exist and can affect access to Forest Schools. Research has shown that one’s socioeconomic status often influences access to green spaces and nature-rich environments (Chen, 2020). Since Forest Schools rely on such natural environments for their curriculum, addressing these disparities becomes crucial. Ensuring equal access to Forest Schools is essential for upholding principles of equity and inclusion and allowing all children, regardless of their socioeconomic background, to reap the myriad benefits associated with outdoor play and experiential learning in a Forest School setting.

Implementing the Forest School approach in Denmark’s preschools has its share of difficulties. Access to Forest Schools may need to be improved by socioeconomic differences, widespread use of standardized testing, and other factors, all of which the country has had to negotiate. Despite these challenges, Denmark has integrated the Forest School concept into its education system because of the country’s emphasis on the importance of nature, the development of the whole child, and the value placed on learning via direct experience. This emphasis has produced a hospitable setting in which kids are given many opportunities to learn and develop, giving them a leg up when they encounter life’s inevitable difficulties. When integrating outdoor, nature-centered learning into early childhood education in a way that promotes children’s overall development, few examples can compare to Denmark’s Forest School method.

Case study 2: Outdoor play of Forest School in the UK

The country’s unique cultural, social, and educational setting heavily influences the success or failure of implementing Forest School in British schools. The Forest School movement, which originated in Scandinavia but has lately seen a surge in popularity in the United Kingdom, aims to instill in children a lifelong love of learning and a profound respect for the natural environment. The approach aligns well with many British educational philosophies emphasizing holistic development and experiential learning. However, Forest Schools need more support to seamless integration within the UK’s educational system despite this alignment. These barriers are rooted in the country’s specific cultural, socioeconomic, and educational contexts, which shape how Forest Schools are received and adopted within the UK (Waite, 2016). These challenges underscore the complexities of implementing alternative educational approaches in different countries and the importance of considering local contexts and dynamics in successfully integrating innovative educational philosophies.

While safety remains paramount, stringent regulations in the UK sometimes constrict the true experiential learning essence of Forest Schools. The UK’s rigorous safety and risk assessment policies occasionally clash with the Forest School’s ethos of promoting risk-taking and exploration (Coates, 2019). Forest School practitioners often grapple with these policies, as their pedagogical approach necessitates a certain level of risk to facilitate authentic learning experiences (Waite, 2011). Unfortunately, the fear of potential litigation, spurred by an increasingly litigious culture, can further drive educational institutions to adopt overly cautious stances. This can restrict the range of activities offered, dampening the adventurous spirit central to the Forest School approach (Leather, 2018). As a result, striking a balance between adhering to safety regulations and preserving the core principles of experiential learning becomes a challenging endeavor for Forest School practitioners in the UK.

The UK’s pronounced focus on standardized testing can pose challenges for Forest Schools, which prioritize experiential learning over structured curriculums. The UK educational system heavily emphasizes measurable outcomes, often assessed through standardized tests, which can inadvertently marginalize alternative pedagogies like Forest Schools (Bilton, 2010). The tension between the free exploration and experiential learning promoted by Forest Schools and the prescriptive, outcomes-oriented learning required to perform well in standardized tests can create doubts among educators and parents (Cudworth & Lumber, 2021). These doubts stem from concerns about whether Forest Schools can provide sufficient academic preparation for children within a testing-focused educational landscape. As a result, Forest Schools may face pressure to adapt their teaching approach to align more closely with the demands of standardized tests, potentially compromising their core ethos of fostering holistic development through immersive, nature-centric learning.

Socioeconomic disparities across regions in the UK can lead to unequal access and varied quality in Forest School experiences. While Forest Schools aim to provide all children equal opportunities to engage with nature, socioeconomic barriers can hinder this vision (Bentsen & Jensen, 2012). Compared to schools in low-income locations, those in wealthier communities may have more money, safer and more diverse outdoor spaces, and qualified teachers (Meyer et al., 2016). For kids from well-off backgrounds, these perks mean they can have a better overall Forest School experience. On the other hand, students living in less affluent locations may need more access to suitable resources and subpar learning spaces, making their Forest School experiences less than ideal. This discrepancy raises Concerns about the Forest School model’s potential for wide-scale implementation in the UK. That’s why it’s crucial to level the playing field and make Forest Schools beneficial for kids of all socioeconomic backgrounds.

It is crucial to tackle the obstacles head-on, guaranteeing that all students may reap the benefits of this novel pedagogical method. At the same time, Forest Schools continue to carve out a position within the UK educational structure. Forest Schools, emphasizing outdoor education and a close relationship with nature, provide something beyond what can be found in a conventional school setting. Integration of this strategy into the UK’s educational system has several challenges, such as the conflict between the emphasis on standardized testing and the value placed on hands-on learning, strict safety requirements, and socioeconomic gaps that limit students’ access to high-quality experiences. To make the most of this transformative educational model, stakeholders must work collaboratively to address these challenges, including educators, policymakers, parents, and communities. Doing so can pave the way for a more inclusive and holistic educational environment where all children, regardless of their socioeconomic background, can experience the myriad benefits of outdoor learning.

Reflection on the Similarities and Differences between Forest Schools in Denmark and the UK


  1. Holistic Development Focus: Denmark and the UK value the holistic development of children, emphasizing physical, cognitive, emotional, and social growth through Forest School programs. In both countries, the approach of Forest Schools revolves around nurturing the ‘whole child.’ Forest School programs, regardless of their location, target all dimensions of children’s development, integrating physical activities, cognitive challenges, emotional support, and social interactions into outdoor learning sessions (O’Brien & Murray, 2007; Bentsen & Jensen, 2012).
  1. Nature-Centric Pedagogy: Forest Schools are a popular educational model in Denmark and the United Kingdom because of the abundance of possibilities for hands-on education they provide in natural settings. The core tenet of Forest Schools is an outdoor, nature-based education, and this is true no matter where they are established. Both nations want to raise environmental consciousness by giving kids more opportunities to learn about and interact with nature (Knight, 2013; Waite, 2011).
  2. Child-Centered Approach: Danish and British Forest Schools are committed to putting kids responsible for their education and making their own choices. Developing children’s confidence in their abilities is central to the ethos of Forest Schools. Both nations ‘ educational systems prioritize children’s interests and choices (Lindholm, 2011; Leather, 2018), fostering an atmosphere conducive to developing skills like critical thinking, problem-solving, and taking calculated risks.


  1. Institutional Support and Access: Denmark and the United Kingdom have vastly different social environments, reflected in the availability and extent to which institutions support Forest School programs. Denmark’s Forest Schools are well regarded by the public and are fully incorporated into the country’s conventional schooling system. This means most kids may participate in Forest School activities regardless of their family’s financial situation. However, inequalities in access to Forest School programs might arise in the United Kingdom due to issues including finance, school resources, and geography (Lindholm, 2011; O’Brien & Murray, 2007).
  2. Role of Educators: Due to cultural and regulatory differences, the function of teachers at Forest Schools in Denmark and the United Kingdom is slightly different. Teachers in Denmark’s Forest Schools often take on a more facilitating role, freeing students to discover and learn independently. In contrast, teachers in the United Kingdom may have a more directed role in enforcing curricular standards and safety rules while encouraging student agency in the classroom (Waite, 2011; Leather, 2018).
  3. Integration into National Curriculum: Due to cultural and political differences, Denmark and the UK use different approaches to incorporating Forest School ideals into the national curriculum. Forest School methods, which emphasize learning via direct experience in natural settings, have been a staple of the Danish national curriculum for quite some time. Although Forest Schools are becoming more popular in the United Kingdom, their incorporation into the standard curriculum continually evolves in response to variables including educational regulations and social goals (Moss, 2016; Bilton, 2010).

Danish and British Forest Schools are dedicated to providing a learning environment that emphasizes the natural world and the needs of the children who attend them. Different countries’ cultural settings and educational goals are reflected in how these ideas are institutionally supported, the roles of educators, and the national curriculum. These contrasts shed light on the Forest School method’s flexibility and promise in various contexts, from one culture’s educational system to another’s.


Outdoor Play, based on a more child-centered and nature-focused approach to education, has gained popularity in recent years. Forest Schools, grounded on a philosophy of holistic development, provide several advantages, such as opportunities for physical, cognitive, emotional, and social development via direct participation in outdoor activities. Children at Forest Schools get the confidence and independence to pursue their interests and master new skills independently. However, moving away from indoor classrooms and into more natural settings like those offered by Forest Schools is challenging. As discussed in the preceding sections, there are barriers to the widespread adoption of the Outdoor Play methodology. Safety concerns, potential delays in academic content, and resource constraints pose hurdles for Forest Schools. Addressing these barriers requires balancing the child’s safety without impeding their natural curiosity, demonstrating that the Forest School pedagogical approach effectively prepares children for future challenges and recognizing the myriad benefits of nature-centric education to garner the necessary support. Analyzing the implementation of Forest Schools in Denmark and the UK reveals similarities and differences. Both countries value the holistic development of children, emphasize nature-centric pedagogy, and prioritize a child-centered approach.

Nevertheless, the level of institutional support, the role of educators, and the integration of Forest School principles into the national curriculum showcase subtle variations influenced by unique societal contexts and educational priorities. Reflecting on the Forest School approach in these two countries, it becomes apparent that its principles and practices are adaptable to diverse cultural and educational landscapes. Despite the differences, Forest Schools in Denmark and the UK continue to provide children with meaningful learning experiences rooted in nature. Such an approach is crucial in nurturing a generation that values nature, understands its importance, and is prepared to address the ecological challenges of the future.

In conclusion, Outdoor Play education, with its unique approach emphasizing holistic child development, autonomy, and environmental awareness, offers a valuable alternative to traditional classroom-based learning. While adopting this educational philosophy can encounter various barriers, as evidenced in countries like Denmark and the UK, Outdoor Play’s adaptability and potential benefits across diverse contexts are undeniable. The successful implementation and integration of Outdoor Play into the broader educational framework require the concerted efforts of educators, policymakers, and communities. It is essential to proactively address the challenges associated with this approach, recognize its numerous advantages, and advocate for the inclusion and support of Outdoor Play methodology within mainstream education. By fostering children’s innate curiosity, autonomy, and love for nature, we contribute to their holistic development and lay the foundation for a more sustainable and ecologically conscious society. Through such efforts, we can create a brighter, more connected, and harmonious future for future generations.


Aljohani, M. (2017). Principles of “constructivism” in foreign language teaching. Journal of Literature and Art Studies7(1), 97–107.

Ball, S. J. (2012). Global Education Inc: New policy networks and the neo-liberal imaginary. Routledge.,+S.+J.+(2012).+Global+Education+Inc.:+New+Policy+Networks+and+the+Neoliberal+Imaginary.+Routledge.&ots=wskmhcIYH0&sig=teJREhZ9hJkhIQDr0hUOR5fkmXc

Bentsen, P., & Jensen, F. S. (2012). The nature of udeskole: outdoor learning theory and practice in Danish schools. Journal of Adventure Education & Outdoor Learning12(3), 199–219.

Bilton, H. (2010). Outdoor learning in the early years: Management and innovation. Routledge.,+H.+(2010).+Outdoor+Learning+in+the+Early+Years:+Management+and+Innovation.+Routledge.&ots=PMW95fVGvB&sig=KQDek1P75tTZTyW67qe068ct4L4

Blackwell, S. (2015). Long-term forest school programs impact children’s resilience, confidence, and well-being. Acesso em30(04), 1-46.

Boileau, E. Y., & Dabaja, Z. F. (2020). Forest School practice in Canada: a survey study. Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education23, 225-240.

Chen, C., Luo, W., Li, H., Zhang, D., Kang, N., Yang, X., & Xia, Y. (2020). Impact of perception of green space for health promotion on willingness to use parks and actual use among young urban residents. International journal of environmental research and public health17(15), 5560.

Coates, J. K., & Pimlott‐Wilson, H. (2019). Learning while playing: Children’s forest school experiences in the UK. British Educational Research Journal45(1), 21–40.

Constable, K. (2012). The outdoor classroom ages 3-7: Using ideas from forest schools to enrich learning. Routledge.

Cudworth, D., & Lumber, R. (2021). The importance of Forest School and the pathways to nature connection. Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Educationpp. 24, 71–85.

EDCHAT. (2013). Teachers TV- Outdoor Learning with Forest School. In YouTube.

Fjørtoft, I. (2001). The natural environment as a playground for children: The impact of outdoor play activities in pre-primary school children. Early childhood education journal29(2), 111–117.

Gundersen, V., Skår, M., O’Brien, L., Wold, L. C., & Follo, G. (2016). Children and nearby nature: A nationwide parental survey from Norway. Urban Forestry & Urban Greeningpp. 17, 116–125.

Harris, F. (2018). Outdoor learning spaces: The case of forest school. Area50(2), 222–231.

Harris, F. (2022). The nature of learning at forest school: practitioners’ perspectives. In Contemporary Issues in Primary Education (pp. 279–296). Routledge. Harris, F. (2022). The nature of learning at forest school: practitioners’ perspectives. In Contemporary Issues in Primary Education (pp. 279–296). Routledge.

Harvey, D. (2005). Neoliberalism ‘with Chinese characteristics.’ In A brief history of neoliberalism. Oxford University Press.,+D.+(2005).+Neoliberalism+%E2%80%98with+Chinese+characteristics%E2%80%99.+In+A+brief+history+of+neoliberalism.+Oxford+University+Press.&hl=en&as_sdt=0&as_vis=1&oi=scholart

Hawxwell, L., O’Shaughnessy, M., Russell, C., & Shortt, D. (2019). ‘Do you need a kayak to learn outside?’: A literature review into learning outside the classroom. Education 3-1347(3), 322–332.

Ilieva, Z., & Terzieva, D. (2019). Forest school for very young learners. E-Newsletter, 116.

Kahn, P. H., Weiss, T., & Harrington, K. (2020). Child-nature interaction in a forest preschool. Research handbook on childhood nature: Assemblages of childhood and nature research, 469-492.

Knight, S. (2013). Forest school and outdoor learning in the early years. Sage.

Leather, M. (2018). A critique of “Forest School” or something lost in translation. Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education21, 5-18.

Malone, K. (2007). The bubble‐wrap generation: children growing up in walled gardens. Environmental Education Research13(4), 513–527.

Milteer, R. M., Ginsburg, K. R., Council on Communications and Media Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health, Mulligan, D. A., Ameenuddin, N., Brown, A., … & Swanson, W. S. (2012). The importance of play in promoting healthy child development and maintaining strong parent-child bond: Focus on children in poverty. Pediatrics129(1), e204-e213.

O’Brien, L. (2020). Learning outdoors: the Forest School approach. In Outdoor Learning Research (pp. 238–253). Routledge.

O’Brien, L., & Murray, R. (2007). Forest School and its impacts on young children: Case studies in Britain. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening6(4), 249–265.

Pimlott‐Wilson, H., & Coates, J. (2019). Rethinking learning? Challenging and accommodating neoliberal educational agenda in the integration of Forest School into mainstream educational settings. The Geographical Journal185(3), 268–278.

Remmen, K. B., & Iversen, E. (2022). A scoping review of research on school-based outdoor education in the Nordic countries. Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 1-19.

Roe, J., & Aspinall, P. (2011). The restorative outcomes of forest school and conventional school in young people with good and poor behavior. Urban forestry & urban greening10(3), 205–212.

Rosin, H. (2014, March 20). The Overprotected Kid. The Atlantic; The Atlantic.

Sandseter, E. B. H. (2009). Affordances for risky play in preschool: The importance of features in the play environment. Early childhood education journal36, 439-446.

SBS Dateline. (2016). Denmark’s Forest Kindergartens. In YouTube.

Scientists Say Child’s Play Helps Build A Better Brain. (2014, August 6). NPR.

Tovey, H. (2007). EBOOK: Playing Outdoors: Spaces and Places, Risk, and Challenge. McGraw-Hill Education (UK).,+H.+(2007).+Playing+Outdoors:+Spaces+and+Places,+Risk+and+Challenge.+Open+University+Press.&ots=krFkzbT7WP&sig=o1KehPxHaQvajI7b4kI-w98qiLo

Waite, S. (2017). Children learning outside the classroom: From birth to eleven. Children Learning Outside the Classroom, pp. 1–320.

Waite, S. (2020). Teaching and learning outside the classroom: Personal values, alternative pedagogies, and standards. In Outdoor Learning Research (pp. 8–25). Routledge.

Waite, S., Bølling, M., & Bentsen, P. (2016). Comparing apples and pears?: A conceptual framework for understanding forms of outdoor learning through comparison of English Forest Schools and Danish udeskole. Environmental education research22(6), 868-892.

Waite-Stupiansky, S. (2022). Jean Piaget’s constructivist theory of learning. In Theories of early childhood education (pp. 3–18). Routledge.

Warden, C. H. (2015). Learning with nature: Embedding outdoor practice. Learning with Nature, 1-128.

Williams-Siegfredsen, J. (2017). Understanding the Danish Forest School approach: Early years education in practice. Taylor & Francis.,+the+concept+of+Forest+School+is+deeply+embedded+in+the+culture+and+is+considered+a+crucial+element+of+early+childhood+education.+&ots=X0qS_HcHaB&sig=XQh_c5SUFBFeXXrhiNLBhMw4YdY

Zhang, X., Wang, H., & Guo, D. (2018). Embodied cognition from the perspective of Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory. Philosophy8(8), 362–367.’S_SOCIOCULTURAL_THEORY_AND_MONTESSORI’S_THEORY/links/5c238d55a6fdccfc706b0876/A-COMPARATIVE-ANALYSIS-VYGOTSKYS-SOCIOCULTURAL-THEORY-AND-MONTESSORI-THEORY.pdf

Boileau, E. Y., & Dabaja, Z. F. (2020). Forest School practice in Canada: a survey study. Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education23, 225-240.


Don't have time to write this essay on your own?
Use our essay writing service and save your time. We guarantee high quality, on-time delivery and 100% confidentiality. All our papers are written from scratch according to your instructions and are plagiarism free.
Place an order

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below:

Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Need a plagiarism free essay written by an educator?
Order it today

Popular Essay Topics