Grant holder
Julia Dixon, Inclusion and Wellbeing Service, West Lothian
Project status

A Froebel Trust funded project which aimed to address the problem of reduced outdoor free play opportunities available to young primary aged children in West Lothian.

The aim of this project was to provide an outdoor play based approach for early primary aged children who were identified as struggling emotionally within a formal learning environment.

Froebel Trust awarded a grant to the Inclusion and Wellbeing Service, which is part of West Lothian Council, for their Forest Skills project.

Project summary

The aim of the project is to take small groups of children to a quiet forest area where they will have the opportunity to learn forest skills such as den building, fire creation and maintenance and working as a team. There is a focus on literacy development as well as health and wellbeing.

The benefits of outdoor play are now well researched and documented globally. In particular there is now an increasing body of evidence and research that focuses on the link between outdoor play opportunities and the development of emotional wellbeing and good mental health.

For some children who struggled to self-regulate and interact with other children, they were suddenly in the perfect environment for self-regulating with the freedom they required. With the open space they needed to feel comfortable interacting with others they were able to form friendships.

Published data are currently showing an alarming surge in mental health difficulties in young children. The charity Childline reported a 36% increase from 2013 – 2016 of children seeking support for serious mental health issues. The NSPCC reported similar findings revealing that “50,819 children and young people in 2015/16 received counselling for a serious mental health issue – a rise of 8% over four years” (The 2018).

In Scotland currently children begin formal education aged 4-5 and despite evidence from research highlighting the importance of outdoor learning and play this is still mostly conducted indoors with only brief pockets of free play offered.

This project was implemented to help address the problem of reduced outdoor free play opportunities available to young primary aged children within West Lothian.

Julia Dixon from the Inclusion and Wellbeing Service, West Lothian presented the results of the project during a session on' Nature Play' at the Froebel Trust Conference held in March 2021.

Research documents

Report from Inclusion and Wellbeing Service on the Forest Skills project