Shocking statistics on screen time, and the impact it has on the amount of time children are spending outdoors, inspired the activities for the Heart of England Forest’s first ever Mini Foresters session on Saturday 3rd November 2018.

A survey of 2,000 parents of five to twelve year olds, part of Persil’s Dirt is Good campaign, revealed that children today are spending less time outdoors than prisoners, with one in five children not playing outside at all on a typical day.

With growing obesity rates and one in four children suffering from a diagnosed mental health condition, the Heart of England Forest is keen to get families outside more often in order to improve their physical and mental health.

New friendships are formed around the campfire.

New friendships are formed around the campfire.

Mini Foresters is our new monthly club for families, which aims to get local families out and about in the Forest on a regular basis. The Heart of England Forest’s Head of Learning and Skills, Elaine Skates explains:

“Our aim in launching Mini Foresters is to help families discover the Forest and show them the fun and adventure they can have when they spend time together outdoors. Rather than organising a one off event in the school holidays, we want to ensure that our Mini Foresters families come back to the Forest again and again, so Mini Foresters will take place every month, on the first Saturday of the month from 2.00  to 4.00pm.”

Many parents and grandparents will be familiar with the groans of reluctance from the younger members of the family when they suggest a nice walk in the countryside. However, when they get there most children have a fantastic time building dens, climbing trees and discovering nature. With Mini Foresters, we want to make sure our activities sound so fun to children that they are nagging their parents to take part rather than the other way around!

With this in mind the first Mini Foresters session invited families to play “Wildcraft” – a scavenger hunt based on the hit computer game “Minecraft”. In the computer game players explore the world of Minecraft for the resources they need to survive and build. Wildcraft is very similar – apart from the fact that players are exploring real habitats rather than a computer generated world.

Building shelters in “creative mode”

Building shelters in “creative mode”

Mini Foresters earned ‘XP’ (points) for finding fungi, fruit, nuts and a range of natural resources, collected firesticks in exchange for marshmallows to toast on the campfire, and ‘tamed’ insects by collecting them in bug pots and using identification sheets to discover what they had found. At every Mini Foresters session, the families will undertake something fun, do something relaxing, learn something about nature and do something helpful; so the families were also awarded XP for finding man-made rubbish and removing it from the Forest.

Six families attended the session on a crisp, clear autumn day. The families sent emails after the event with some great feedback:

“The kids had a super time, and we will definitely try and come up again for another of your “Mini Foresters” sessions in the future – a great initiative!!” Fiona

“I’d just like to thank you for the session today! Jake loved it and is already looking forward to the next one”. Laura

“Thanks for a great day yesterday. We all had a brilliant time.” Michelle

“Just wanted to thank you for the enjoyable Mini Foresters session last Saturday. We had fun searching for the woodland items. Our two children especially liked the fire circle at the end with hot chocolate and marshmallows.” Rachel

Mini Foresters will take place on the first Saturday of every month. To book the next session visit https://www.heartofenglandforest.com/events/.

Mini Foresters exploring the “Wilderworld”…otherwise known as the Wildwood at Middle Spernal Farm.

Mini Foresters exploring the “Wilderworld”…otherwise known as the Wildwood at Middle Spernal Farm.

 

Parent Michelle and volunteer Dom take things a bit more seriously.

Parent Michelle and volunteer Dom take things a bit more seriously.

 

The families “tamed” some interesting pets – before letting them go unharmed of course!

The families “tamed” some interesting pets – before letting them go unharmed of course!

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