The Forest Playgroup is a free, parent- facilitated program that aims to provide a space for like-aged children to explore, learn and interact outside. Integrating principles from child-led educational models, our program has activities to support our children’s natural curiosity and developmental learning. With a holistic, family-focus, we are working to cultivate a positive, active and inspiring culture for parents, and fill an important niche within our community.

The Forest Playgroup is a free, parent- facilitated program that aims to provide a space for like-aged children to explore, learn and interact outside. Integrating principles from child-led educational models, our program has activities to support our children’s natural curiosity and developmental learning.

With a holistic, family-focus, we are working to cultivate a positive, active and inspiring culture for parents, and fill an important niche within our community.

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Recreating the Village

Forest Playgroup is dedicated to creating a community of families by providing a free program that is accessible–and welcoming–for all. While filling an important niche, our group rotates facilitation responsibilities which encourages a greater level of investment and participation. Instead of paying for a service, parents create an experience for their families in an environment that supports and appreciates the adventure of parenting.

Slow Parenting

We believe in letting our children explore the world at their own pace while we embrace the adventure of parenting. Children are being raised in an increasingly hurried culture, where free, child-centered play is often sacrificed for academic and enrichment activities, and parenting has become more of a concept than relationship.

Studies have found that giving children the space to engage with the wonders of the natural world has significant benefits for health, learning, and skill development, and has been connected with greater levels of calm and happiness in children. Bringing parents into that setting to slow down, explore, and engage with their children increases opportunities for bonding and family togetherness, while also helping adults feel healthier and reenergized.

According to a 2007 study by Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, “parents who have the opportunity to glimpse into their children’s world learn to communicate more effectively with their children and are given another setting to offer gentle, nurturing guidance….Quite simply, play offers parents a wonderful opportunity to engage fully with their children.”

Outside Always

In rain, snow, and sunshine, the Forest Playgroup is a dedicated, outdoors program. By embracing Mother Nature, we hope to instill a love and respect for nature while promoting the endless benefits of outdoor play.

From the crunch of the leaves and the smell of the pines, to the feeling of your hand in running water, nature is the ultimate sensory experience. By stimulating all of the senses, it sows deep cognitive foundations in young minds. All the while, children are hiking, climbing, jumping, throwing, balancing, running, digging, and challenging their bodies in endless ways, contributing to overall health and physicality. All too often, children are kept indoors and encouraged to pursue sedentary play, which scientists say is having a significant detrimental impact on children.

Research has shown that children who play in nature day after day forge a lifetime bond and commitment to conservation and the environment, which is a fundamental value of the Forest Playgroup, and one we want to pass on to our children. We also believe in the power of “exploring your own backyard” by visiting local parks and absorbing all of the different ecosystems that our local community has to offer.

Play Education

Kids are hardwired to learn–they are born scientists, linguists, explorers, and builders. The Forest Playgroup promotes holistic child development and facilitates socialization through play and exploration.

Research has found that unstructured outdoor play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, sensory and emotional strength. At the same time, it builds social skills as children learn how to work in groups, share, negotiate, resolve conflicts, and self advocate. In fact, free play is so important to optimal child development that the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights has recognized it as a right of every child.

Each week, Forest Playgroup builds an age-appropriate activity around a specific outdoor location. With this framework, we step back as our little ones discover the environment and explore their own play, with both nature and each other.

Building on many of the principles of Forest Schools, the Forest Playgroup challenges children to take risk and learn from their failures. As Ken Finch, former director of the Green Hearts Institute for Nature in Childhood, wrote, “A child can practice and learn good judgment by climbing trees at age six or that can wait until they are sixteen and behind the wheel of a car.”

In our case, a toddler can fall in the mud, practice walking logs, or roll down a hill to strengthen their sense of self, learn about natural consequences and develop a keener sense of resilience.

Thank You To Our Partners
We would not exist without the generous and ongoing support from many in the Portland, Maine community.

If you would like to contribute to The Forest Playgroup, in whatever form, please inquire below.

And thank you for the generous donations of supplies from: Garbage to Gardens, Aubuchon Hardware, Artist and Craftsman Supply, Hannaford and more!
We are a homegrown initiative that would love to hear from you — have a suggestion of a place to check out, a potential sponsor, an awesome activity or want to start your own branch of the Forest Playgroup? Drop us a line!

The Forest Playgroup (c) 2018