Using Froebelian Approaches to Promote Wellbeing in Woodlands

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Project summary:

A practical study of the impact that woodlands has on the wellbeing of 3-5 year olds,using Froebel’s principle of engaging with nature


This project looks at the contribution nature woodlands has on children’s sense of wellbeing and how Froebel’s principle, engaging with nature, can help to develop children’s learning. This project also considers the resources of Froebel, Children and Nature (Tovey, 2022), Re-engaging With Nature (d’Ascoli & Hunter, 2022) & Outdoor Play and Exploration (Tovey, 2017).
This enquiry matters because My World Outdoors and Care Inspectorate emphasise the importance and benefits of outdoor play and, having recently undertaken staff training in the woodlands, it was felt that taking forward staff’s learning and enriching the children with opportunities to explore the outdoor surroundings to identify benefits to the children’s sense of wellbeing and learning when engaging with nature.


Prior to commencing this research, I recognised that the children had not explored the opportunities which the local nature woodlands offered as staff we as a staff team had not put what we had learned from staff training into practice from that point and, as a result, I felt that the children were missing out on these day-to-day experiences. It was felt that my keyworker group could act as the pioneers for getting this project off the ground and sustaining longevity for exploring the woodlands and the wellbeing benefits this could offer.
It was my belief that the woodlands could provide children with freedom, choice, exploration and social skills. I also felt, by allowing the children to engage with their local woodlands area, it would help the children to understand the significance of nature and the opportunities it can provide.

Before carrying out the project, the woodlands site had to be assessed and during this stage, the area which would be used had to be cleared of litter prior to any use. Risk assessments were also carried out of the site before each session also to ensure the safety for children and staff who were participating.

Another consideration was the resources which would be taken and how these could be safely transported to and from the location. It was felt that by using a four-wheel trolley before the children were brought to the woodlands that this would help for set-up and ease of carrying all resources needed.

We kept a checklist of actions before taking the children to the woodlands which included checking of resources, risk assessing of site, setting up, having fresh water available, bringing medication, bringing snack and drinks and leaving the forest as we found it.


One of the ethical issues which was considered was the children who would be selected to participate in this project. After careful consideration, it was determined that my keyworker group would be selected as there was an already established report between myself and those children and this was a natural resolution to the initial barrier of participation. The feeling was that by using this group as well as having staff who had other keyworker groups, this could allow for more woodland exploration for more children within the nursery as well as developing staff skills and awareness of Froebelian approaches.

“I liked hearing the birds singing, they went tweet tweet tweet”

Princess Star


After gathering data on the children’s perceptions of the woodlands and their anxieties about aspects such as it being “too muddy” and/or “too cold”, it was felt that these feears towards the natural world could be challenged through the various experiences which could be provided.
Over the course of several weeks, the children spent time exploring the woodlands, engaging in a variety of activities, including nature walks, plant and animal identification, sensory exploration and engagement with natural environment. Within this, the children had opportunities to engage in free play and creative activities using natural materials such as sticks, mud, stones and leaves.
At the end of the project, the children were asked again about how the activities made them feel, to assess if there had been any changes to their sense of wellbeing. The results were encouraging, with most of the group suggesting increased feelings of happiness and contentment, as well as observing greater confidence and self esteem within some of the children.
One of the most striking findings of the project was the impact that spending time in nature had on the mental health of the children, with many reporting that they felt calmer and more relaxed after spending time in the woodlands. When assessing this afterwards, using emotion cards, it was found that three out of the group of 7 had selected the calm emotion card and when questioned about why, the children gave answers such as “it was nice and quiet” and “I liked hearing the birds singing”.
The project also had positive impacts on the social-emotional development of the children. They had opportunities to work together and collaborate on tasks, which helped to develop their communication and teamwork skills. They also had opportunities to practice and understand empathy and compassion towards the natural world and helping to promote pro-environmental attitudes and behaviours.
There were instances where negative experiences were had as one child felt that due to the cold temperature on a previous visit to the forest, that they didn’t wish to go on the subsequent visit to the woodlands. This was wish respected at the time and did pose the question of potential barriers to the overall experience and how these impact attitudes towards the outdoor environment.


After conducting this project, several important findings were revealed. Firstly, spending time in nature was found to have a significant positive impact on the wellbeing of the children with the opportunities which were available to actively engage with the environment and how the children claimed this made them feel. Secondly, the impact on the children’s mental health with the calmness of the environment being highlighted as a takeaway from the project. Another result of this project has been the positive impact of social-emotional development and connection with the natural environment. Overall, it was found that a combination of nature, mindfulness and social connection has a positive impact on the wellbeing of young children and these findings can be taken forward to build on the experiences that a natural learning environment can provide and enabling more children and adults to participate in these environments.

Research implications

To be completed

Practitioner enquiry

To be completed

Leadership learning

To be completed

Author and role

To be completed

Comments from other network members

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