If you go down to the woods today, you’re in for a big surprise! This week at Cosy we are thinking all things forest school - and not just about the joy of getting muddy. We think learning is at its best when incorporated into a variety of fun and exciting activities. We’re here today to chat about our favourite ways to incorporate storytelling and literacy into your forest school provision.

Why stories and forest school?

We believe the magical experience of nature and the outdoor world lends itself beautifully to encouraging the imaginative development of little ones. Think of how many classic children’s stories feature woodland creatures, forest settings and the wonders of nature. Where would Little Red Riding Hood be if she hadn’t wandered through the wood to grandmas? The Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton would look rather dull without its main feature - and the Gruffalo wouldn’t feel quite the same if it weren’t for the deep dark woods. It’s abundantly clear that rich storytelling is something which very naturally lends itself to an immersive setting like forest school. We thought we’d share some of our favourite ways to instill a love of reading and storytelling in children, in the great outdoors.

Nothing quite evokes magic and wonder like a mysterious treasure hunt - why not make this even more wonderful by incorporating familiar fairytale characters, or traditional figures from children’s stories? Here are a few ideas.

  • Fairy folk: use our small world fairy figures to create a fairy world which children are set to discover! Add fairy doors, fairy figures, and toadstool houses around your forest school setting. Once your class have discovered the fairy figures, can they work out how they got there? What happened? Can they recreate stories using them in a small world?
  • Traditional tales: hide painted wooden spoons or laminated character cards throughout the forest area. How many can the children find? Can they recreate the story they belong to?
  • Nursery rhymes: similar to the traditional tales set up, but each child might have a checklist of nursery rhyme characters to discover. Once they have found the character, can they remember what nursery rhyme they come from?

Immersive role play along with storytelling and literacy in your forest school 

Think escape room or murder mystery for little ones! Choose your favourite woodland themed story, from Little Red Riding Hood through to Superworm or the Gruffalo. Using wooden painted spoons, small world figures, dolls, or cutouts, and prepare your forest school with a scene from the story, perhaps mid-action. The children can come along and find themselves in the midst of the tale! Here are some examples:

  • Goldilocks and the Three Bears: might goldilocks be half finished with her porridge, sat on wooden tree stumps? Or perhaps there are three chairs going from smallest to biggest, and some bear footprints nearby? What has happened? What happens next?
  • The Gruffalo: perhaps there are some ‘terrible teeth marks’ and claw prints around your forest school, with some printed characters from the tale sharing what they have heard from mouse. The children might be able to work out who has been in the forest school!
  • Teddy Bear’s Picnic: on arriving at forest school, the children find teddy bears seated around the space with a snack set up in the middle. What song/story has happened here? Can they remember what needs to happen next?

Small world and natural loose parts 

Practitioners will be familiar with the power of small world and loose part play in narrative storytelling. One of the best things about forest schools is that, for the most part, the key resources are ready prepared by mother nature herself. These suit small world play brilliantly! Your little ones can go foraging for acorns, leaves, twigs, and more to set the scene to tell their favourite stories, or create their own. Here are a few ideas we’ve thought of:

  • Can twigs and leaves be used to make houses for the three pigs? 
  • Might your class make a ‘tea’ for teddy bears, or perhaps fill Little Red Riding Hood’s basket with forest ‘treats’ for grandma?
  • Might you make a fairy or gnome garden alongside a tree stump with found items? 

Campfire stories 

Sometimes encouraging a love of storytelling needn’t be highly resourced. Encourage your little ones to cosy up around a fire with marshmallows and listen to oral storytelling. Perhaps they could join in and decide what happens to the characters as you go, or try out telling their own stories? 

These ideas touch the surface of ways in which you might encourage storytelling in a forest school setting. However you enjoy your forest school, we think the magical setting itself will encourage the imaginations of your little ones.

We hope that you have enjoyed reading our favourite ways to incorporate storytelling and literacy in your forest school. We would love to hear if you try these out, and your own ideas, too - tag us on social media!


With thanks to The Cosy Creatives and Cosy Club Members for this blog post and images.