A Pre-School in the Woods

Exciting times at Bee in the Woods…

Forest School Adventures into Childcare.... by Lorraine Perks

As the weather turns chillier and our winter woollies go on, the ‘Queen Bees’ of Bee in the Woods are working hard behind the scenes on our latest and very exciting project: A Forest School Pre-School!

We can barely contain our excitement to be embarking on this project. Lucy has been nurturing this little seedling of an idea for quite a while and now it is definitely sprouting roots and lovely green shoots!

So what is it?

Firstly, yes, Bee in the Woods Forest Pre-School will be an Outdoor Nursery. Rain or shine, we will be providing outdoor childcare for 3-7 year olds. But, of course being Forest School it is so much more than childcare!
We believe that the Forest School means inspirational learning through a simple but magic recipe:

How to make Forest Schooled Children:

1. Firstly, immerse children in the weather, the changing seasons and the wonder the natural world (ensure children are dressed for the weather and remember they wipe clean!);

2. Next, provide regular opportunities for children to learn new skills (yes, give them the right skills and build enough confidence and a 4 year old can safely design and make their own woodland toy!);

3. Now, build self-esteem and resilience through hands-on opportunities for success, where children can choose where they want to take their learning.

4. Return muddy/glowing/happy/tired/Forest School children to parents and carers at the end of each day.

5. Repeat, repeat, repeat!

I suppose we could call it child-led, holistic, child-centred and so on. But we just like to call it ‘Forest School’!

And where will it be…?

It’s been all about ‘location, location, location’ over the last few months. The feedback from our recent survey has given us fantastic insight. It became clear that there is a lot of enthusiasm for an outdoor setting that is wild enough - yet accessible by public transport.  So we have been looking for ideal sites that would give children the freedom and connection to the natural world that we know they thrive in - yet are still in easy reach from Brighton/Hove City Centre.  We have been working hard on securing two lovely woodland sites in the city. As soon as we have confirmation, we will make our big location announcement.

We are dreaming big, so if you just happen to have a bit of land or know someone who does and would like to be part of our exciting project do get in touch.

So far, getting inspirational sites secured has been the biggest part of the process and thankfully we are almost there. Over the coming months we are going to be organising events and inviting our Bee in the Woods families to visit our first site  for taster sessions while we await our Ofsted registration. We would also love to get families involved with the set-up, so get those gardening gloves and tools ready!

What about the weather?

We all know about the good ole British weather and as we head into the chills of winter, we are aware that many parents might wonder how we would cope with the cold and wet in an entirely outdoor setting.  We are still learning and taking advise from many other established nurseries across the UK (Including Northern Scotland!) about the best practices.  Most outdoor settings have some kind of shelter - from a parachute suspended in the trees to a belltent, a yurt or a log cabin.  In addition to ensuring every child wears top quality weather-proof clothing, we will be investigating all of these options and applying appropriate inclement weather policies to our pre-school.  

But when…?

Once we have our site secured, it will be all systems go with OFSTED registration, site preparation and recruitment! We would hate to set a date and have to move it so for now, we are just keeping everything crossed for ‘before summer’. We will of course keep you all posted!

And who…?

So far, Lucy and I (Lorraine) have been working with Early Years advisors at Brighton and Hove council and visiting Outdoor Nurseries around Sussex, London and Kent for advice, while Simone continues to run her fabulous Baby Bee sessions. As we get closer and closer to bringing our Forest School Pre-School to life, we need to expand the team.

Nursery team members:
Firstly, we are going to be looking for happy, inspirational, passionate Early Years professionals, Forest School Leaders or teachers with QTS to join us on the ‘wild side’ of education. Get in touch if you are interested!

Advisory board:
Secondly, we are looking for lovely people to help advise and support Bee in the Woods. Lucy is in the process of setting up a board of Bee in the Woods ambassadors with super-skills in fields such Early Years education, finance, business, social enterprise etc.  If you have super-skills to share and are keen to help us bring our dreams to life, please get in touch!

As a social enterprise, our aim is to give as many Brighton & Hove children as possible the opportunity for Forest School adventures.  We would like to build a community around our unique nursery that helps to connect families, schools and community groups with the great outdoors.  If you'd like to volunteer or get involved in anyway, please do get in touch!

So, with Christmas round the corner, Lucy and I will be as the North Pole elves. The dream of a much needed, long overdue Outdoor Nursery in Brighton and Hove is well and truly alive. Watch this space!

Lorraine Perks 

Lorraine left teaching a year ago to join our Bee in the Woods adventure.  Since joining, she has developed innovative, hands-on outdoor workshops for schools, started her Forest School training and is working with Lucy on the exciting Pre-School plans.


Muddy Mamas

Muddy Mamas - Twilight camp

This summer is such a special one for us here at Bee in the Woods, for many reasons. 

Our youngest is off to big school in September so we’re savouring those last moments of him being really ‘little’ and dependent on us.  We know that his confidence will trot away with him and he’ll make more of his own connections and friends away from us.  He’s ready and looking forward to it. 

This new chapter brings changes for the whole family and especially for me as a working mum.

While I won’t be weeping at the school gates (who am I kidding – I’ll be sobbing!), it has made me reflect on motherhood.  The highs, the lows, the changes.  And especially the fact that it simply moves forward, irrespective of our readiness for the next stage.

The idea for Muddy Mamas has been a long time in the great Bee in the Woods ideas pipeline; but this feeling of time slipping by, along with your reviews (where so many of you told us how valuable your time at Bee in the Woods is to you, too); prompted us to get our first Muddy Mama’s session into the calendar.

As forest school practitioners and mothers, the Bee in the Woods team all recognise the value of getting out into the woods and away from wifi and TV and the speed of life; to wriggle our toes in the grass and whittle a stick or two.

For lots of us, as our children grow up and move on, and we refocus on work, or full-time work; we can lose connections with our ‘mummy’ (and daddy), friends.  Having babies and preschoolers is HARD, and being at home with them can be isolating. The clubs and groups that we build, whether in formal settings like classes and groups or those that we fall into, in our local parks and libraries, are a lifeline.  When things change, those relationships need to change too.  Some will fall by the wayside, and lots will evolve.  I’m hoping I can evolve mine.

We all know too, how easy it is to simply focus only on our kids, and find ourselves without networks of our own.  To find our own relationships have hollowed or neglected over time.  Its normal.

So, Muddy Mamas came from that too.  From the need to start to think about ourselves.  From our need to nurture our existing relationships and those we have made through the journey of motherhood.

We hope that it will become something that we can do regularly, maybe monthly, with big groups of welcoming women, to support one another and nurture and build and protect those relationships.

We’re not the only ones waving our little boys off in September.  We said goodbye to lots of our regulars last week, as they ready themselves for school and new things, but we’re very much hoping that we will see those children at our ‘Outdoor Learning for Schools’ days and the ‘Bee Wild’ holiday clubs.

It would be wonderful to see you mamas too.

Muddy Mamas is a twilight session of fireside creativity, natural crafting (how many of you have been itching to get involved in a dreamcatcher or some wooden beading), potion making (think beeswax handcream), camp cookery and elderflower fizz.  Come.  Invite your NCT group, your old or new workmates, your sister, the woman you like at your child’s music club, or just your good old Bee in the Woods mates, and get a grown-up nature fix to get you through the holidays and ready for everything September sends.

Book Now

Wednesday 23 August, from 6.30 – 8.30, £15 including fizz and nibbles


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Bee Wild

Bee Wild Holiday camp, Brighton, Hove, Portslade

Bee Wild -Summer Holiday camp for 7-12 year olds

Our New BEE WILD Holiday Club at Bee-autiful Foredown Woods

We have been such busy Bees at BitW HQ this school year.  Simone, Lorraine, Jess and Chloe came on board, we are running four forest school sessions each week in term time, from 2 sites, and delivering sessions in two nurseries; we also have a whole host of exciting adventures up our sleevies ready for next term (subscribe to our newsletter to keep up to date with the new news as it happens).

But one of the most exciting, much requested and hotly anticipated new things is our forest school holiday club for bigger Bees!

We are thrilled to announce that we will be offering two holiday clubs this summer for children aged 7-12.

Our Foredown Woods site is our really wild site, and holds a fire license; so if your bigger kid enjoys nature, woodcraft, dens, wild cooking and generally mucking about in the woods, this is a fabulous opportunity to get some outdoorsiness into them this summer.

Drop off is at 10am at Foredown Allotments, Thornbush Crescent, Portslade, BN41 2GW 

Activities: Den building, survival skills, tool-use, natural crafts, bows and arrows, wands, potions, firecraft, wildlife, pond dipping, team games, camp cooking and much, much more.

  • Please provide suncream/appropriate weather clothes and a packed lunch

  • Pick up is at 3pm sharp from camp

  • Suitable For: 7-12 year olds

  • Dates: Wednesday 23 and Wednesday 30 August

  • Times: 10-3pm

  • Cost: Early bird tickets £28 until 15th July, £30 after.  Sibling discount available.

  • Please note that places are strictly limited.  Early booking is essential for Bee Wild

Book a place on 23 August Bee Wild Holiday Camp

Book a place on the 30 August Bee Wild Holiday Camp

Or you can see all available sessions, including our much loved Family Forest School sessions, suitable for children of all ages and their families, on our  'What's On' page

Our Favourite Trees

The things we love about trees - the Bouncy tree (Cedar) - Stanmer Park, Brighton, East Sussex UK

Celebrating trees.

It's National Tree Dressing day this week and as a result, I've been thinking about our favourite trees.
Do you have a favourite tree and what does it mean to you? 
I have lots of favourite trees. The amazing old Oaks and Chestnuts in woodlands I have worked in, the big Beeches at Three Cornered Copse, the huge gnarley Sycamore tree in Hove park...I love all of these trees. They're beautiful landmarks, ecologically important and full of history. I like to point them out to my oldest son, who's 5.
...He usually replies 'meh'. 

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