VikingKids at Forest School

Shortly after starting up in 2007, we were delighted to be selected among all available UK suppliers of children's outdoor clothing to provide child waterproofs for Forest School for ten inner city Oxford schools. In a project sponsored by IKEA, Forest School leaders from the Oxford Excellence Cluster Forest School project, supported by the Forestry Education Initiative, looked at a selection of children's rainwear (including other Scandinavian brands) and were most impressed by our waterproof dungarees and rain sets from Didriksons. We were very excited about this opportunity to get involved in this worthwhile project! In January 2008 we then spent a wonderful day getting muddy with a group of enthusiastic 4-year-olds. It was a memorable and incredibly rewarding day with some very cool kids! As you can see, the children were delighted with their new, funky waterproofs, which allowed them to explore even the largest puddles in comfort...

Since then our involvement with Forest School settings all around the country has continued to grow. In March 2010 we were awarded the opportunity to equip 25 nurseries across Aberdeenshire with waterproofs; this time a 2-piece rain suit by Elka was chosen. Over the past years, we have equipped hundreds of schools and nurseries all around the UK and abroad - even as far as New Zealand! - with waterproof clothing for their outdoor settings. A growing number of full-time outdoor kindergartens also use our best-selling sets and accessories as part of their standard uniform.

Forest Schools in the UK

"Forest School is the type of place where everybody wants to learn!" says one child who has a lesson in a 'wild' Oxfordshire woodland setting every week. In the last three years, over 1,000 Foundation Stage and Year 3 children in Oxford city have been attending regular Forest School sessions as part of the Oxford Excellence Cluster/Forest School Project. The initial funding didn't however cover protective clothing, and teachers longed for quality waterproof trousers and jackets to keep the children warm and dry.

The term "Forest School" describes a programme aiming to help groups of young children (or even adults!) to develop a range of life skills in an outdoor setting. It's a concept that originated in Sweden in the 1950s and has been widely adopted accross Scandinavia, in particular in Denmark, where it forms part of the national curriculum for 4-6-year-olds since the 1980s.

A Swedish scientific study found that 4-6-year-olds attending regular Forest School sessions showed better social skills, were happier and demonstrated better academic results than a control group of peers from similar backgrounds. Importantly, regular opportunities for outdoor play in a woodland setting resulted in improved concentration, better resistance to infection (leading to 25% fewer sick days!) and better self-esteem. This research confirms what Scandinavians have long known: good weather protective clothing, and in particular functional waterproofs, are essential for the development of happy, healthy children!

The idea of Forest School was brought to the UK in 1995, by a group from Bridgwater College in Somerset after a visit to Denmark. Since then, it has spread to many areas, as educationalists have observed the positive effects that it can have on children. Because children are encouraged to explore the natural environment in a safe setting, their self-confidence and independence grows (especially if equipped with good all-weather clothing). In particular, children who may otherwise have very little opportunity to splash in puddles and generally enjoy nature are given the freedom to discover the great outdoors in a nurturing environment.

In October 2005, an 8-month study by the Forestry Commission and the New Economics Foundation concluded that "Forest School is an inspirational process that offers children, young people and adults regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence through hands-on learning in a woodland environment."

Emphasis is placed on the regularity of Forest School sessions, no matter what the weather is like. Of course, quality protective clothing is essential to the comfort of the children and to the success of the scheme. As we say in Sweden: there is no bad weather, only poor clothing! We're delighted, in partnership with IKEA, to provide the very best wet weather gear possible to such a large number of inner city children.

Forest School children in waterproofs from Didriksons
Boy in waterproof rain set from VikingKids
Getting muddy in quality  children's waterproofs!
Child waterproofs from Didriksons

Quality children's clothing from Scandinavia

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The children with VikingKids founder Emma Collins
and IKEA UK Environmental Manager Charlie Browne

Forest School group in child waterproofs
Foundation Stage children from Orchard Meadow Primary School with Forest School Leader Ali Dring and teacher Katie McNulty
Boy testing waterproofs in muddy puddle!