This sentiment goes well with another article I just read, telling the history of the Wald Kingergarten (or Forest/Wood Kingergarten). It was created in the 1950s in Denmark, by a woman named Ella Flautau who often spent time with her own and neighbours' children in a nearby forest, as a form of daycare which generated great interest among the neighbourhood parents. The parents formed a group and created an initiative to establish the first Wood Kindergarten. Since then, the idea has spread to other Scandinavian countries and beyond.
Wood Kindergartens existed in Germany since the 1960s, but were first officially recognized as a form of daycare in 1993, which allowed for state subsidies to reduce the fees of children attending these Wood Kingergartens. Since then, the Wood Kindergartens have become increasingly popular. As of 2005 there were approximately 450 Wood Kindergartens in Germany, some of which offer a mix of Wood Kindergarten and traditional daycare, spending their mornings in the forest and afternoons inside. The daycare workers and children spend their time outdoors, in a forest, meadow, or on a beach. Another distinctive feature of Wood Kindergartens is the emphasis on play with toys that are fashioned out of objects that can be found in nature, rather than commercial toys. Despite these differences, Wood Kindergartens are meant to fulfill the same basic purpose as other preschools, namely, to care for, stimulate, and educate young children.The Wood Kindergarten aims to counter the lack of connection to nature, as well as the over-protection and lack of risk in everyday life, and the health threats of childhood obesity.
Though we don't have a Wald Kindergarten here, I am determined to take Maya on a walk each day rain or shine, and introduce her to the wild places, parks, gardens, plants and trees here in the city. Perhaps a Forest Group could be formed with other parents who have the same interests in celebrating our natural spaces here in the city with our children.