With the growing popularity of Forest School activities, we decided to check out one of Manchesterís outdoor groups - the 'Into The Woods' parent and toddler session run by The Mudpie Academy.
Into the Woods Parent and Toddler Group
The usual Manchester drizzle wasn't going to deter us. Pulling on our waders and wellies we headed off to meet the group at Birchfields Park in Longsight.
The Mud Pie Academy's mission is Ďto make outdoor learning opportunities available to all children, especially those in the inner city who can't always access nature so readilyí and this is an important ethos.
The two group leaders for our session were calm, friendly and clearly very experienced in managing large groups in an outdoor setting. It was an extremely busy day but nothing felt rushed and everyone got to have a turn at taking part.
Heading into the woods with wellies at the ready.
Our day in the woods.. We started with a naming song, then moved on to a giant game of hide and seek with a more collaborative twist. Although there is a main meeting area with log circle and a small rain cover, children are encouraged to explore the surrounding area during games and activities. A special call is deployed to get everyone back to the circle so you don't need to worry about wandering too far! As it is a wild setting, there are nettles and plants with berries nearby so keep an eye on little ones who still might grab out or put things in their mouths.
Natural tree painting
Returning from our game, we sat for a story about a magic paintbrush. Then, in keeping with the theme, we were given paintbrushes, pots, and mud and sent off to paint pictures on the trees. There were sticks of chalk too for the more artistic youngsters.
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Although the activities are guided, there is no issue with families also having a little wander off so itís a lovely, relaxed atmosphere compared to similar groups we've visited that take place indoors. We messily painted trees for a bit then toddled along to the nearby play area for a quick bounce and a swing.
Quick break and a play on the park
On hearing the group call, we headed back to the log circle to watch a fire being lit. My daughter was mesmerised by the process and then thrilled to have a turn throwing a block of wood on the fire (all under close supervision, of course!).
We had to leave to travel home, but after a bit of mobile hand washing courtesy of a spray bottle (such a good idea!) the group were just tucking into apple juice and fire-popped popcorn to finish the session.
The great outdoors definitely occupied my little one.
Would we go again? We really enjoyed today, and I was pleasantly surprised by how well my daughter behaved and listened! Usually she's the first one to disrupt a circle time, but I think being outdoors, having her feet in the sticks and mud, sitting on a log and the general atmosphere, gave her enough to experience without getting bored and looking elsewhere for entertainment. I know that she will ask me to go back again, and we definitely will!
Useful Info: What? Parent and toddler outdoor activity class which includes den making, hide and seek games, bear hunts, having camp fires and simple nature crafts. Recommended for pre school aged children over 18 months. Where? Birchfields Park, Birchfields Rd, Manchester M14 5JU When? Friday 11th, 18th & 25th August from 10:30am - 12:00pm. Please check the website for further session dates and times. How much? Between £3.00 and £5.50 per family.