As part of our efforts to get outside more with our #1000hoursoutside challenge, I signed Thomas up at the start of the year for Tots Go Wild forest school sessions at Black Park. We attended sessions every week from January through to July and it was a wonderful way of encouraging Thomas to engage in exploring the outdoors and enjoy outdoor play in all kinds of weather.
Tots Go Wild is aimed at 1–5-year-olds, starting from when they can walk independently through to when they start full-time education. The sessions are held at Black Pines Camp. This is an enclosed woodland area, about 15-20 minutes’ walk from the car park for little legs, and there are butterfly sign-posts from the car park to show the way there. There is plenty of space for buggies just inside the entrance to Black Pines Camp.
Inside Black Pines Camp there are lots of different outdoor activity stations plus a themed activity each week. The rangers that run the session are all really friendly and engaging with both the children and their grown-ups. Adult supervision is important at all times though – it’s a woodland area and so there may be toxic plants and fungi. If there are known toxic plants around, the rangers will tell you where they are. Golden rule of thumb is to make sure the children don’t put anything in their mouth!
The activities available include a craft activity, outdoor games, a chalk wall, a digging pit, a sand pit, a water wall, number mats, an obstacle course, a mud kitchen, a music wall and bug hunting. All equipment for activities is provided. Thomas’s favourite activities were the chalk wall and the number mats. He also enjoyed looking for bugs under the logs around the camp-fire area.
There are a couple of areas where the children can stop for a snack. You need to bring your own snacks and drinks though. There is a café on the way to Black Pines Camps if you need to pick up any snacks and hot or cold drinks.
There is a eco-toilet in Black Pines Camp and a hand-washing station nearby with hand sanitiser available (although it’s recommended that you also bring your own hand sanitiser). Children are encouraged to wash their hands before they gather around the camp-fire session at the end of the session to have a biscuit.
Between October and May, there is usually a campfire lit. When we first started going to session, the children would toast marshmallows at the end of the session, however new legislation for early years means that this is now no longer permitted. It’s still fun to be able to sit around the campfire with a biscuit though!
Once the children have had their biscuits at the end of the session, the rangers hand out some musical instruments. The session ends with singing the Tots Go Wild song. It’s a response song – the rangers sing each line and then those attending repeat it (there are words handed out if you need them though!)
Part of the ethos of forest school is that there is no bad weather, just bad clothing and so Tots Go Wild goes ahead in all weathers. The only time it will be cancelled is if the weather is deemed unsafe. We had a couple of cancellations due to high winds during the six months we attended sessions.
Recommended clothing for sessions is wellies or walking boots (no open-toed shoes or sandals), long trousers, a long-sleeved top, any layers that are appropriate for the temperature and the season, waterproof top and trousers (or a waterproof all-in-one suit), a hat and gloves (ideally waterproof ones). The clothes will get dirty! In the summer, it’s nice and cool under the trees. Long-sleeved tops and trousers are still recommended to help to protect from insect bites and scratches). In the winter, I’d recommend lots of layers and a couple of pairs of socks under the wellies. If you don’t have waterproof gloves, make sure you bring more than one pair as they will get wet.
One of the many good things about Tots Go Wild is that you don’t have to commit to the whole half-term of sessions; you can book individual sessions and dip in and out. It’s good to have that option of doing a session here and there. There is a discount for block-booking if you do want to do the whole half-term though. We block-booked our sessions as I’d planned to make Tots Go Wild part of our weekly routine.
If you have an older sibling on an inset day, you may be able to bring them along. You will need to ask permission though as they’ll need to be booked using a special ticket. Sophie attended one of our sessions and absolutely loved it. She particularly enjoyed the music wall, especially when she discovered that the saucepans are perfectly pitched to play ‘Baby Shark’!
Black Park is also a lovely place to explore if you arrive early or stay later after the session. There is a children’s playground a few minutes’ walk from Black Pines Camp and a café nearby. If you’re feeling more adventurous, there is also a Go Ape next to the car park.
Tots Go Wild at Black Park: What you need to know
Black Park Country Park
Black Park Road
There is a large pay and display car park, with parking charges starting at £3.80 for 2 hours. The machines take coin and card payments.
Sessions take place on Fridays during term-time and must be prebooked. There is a morning session (10am – 11.30am) and an afternoon session (1pm – 2.30pm)
Details and prices are correct at the time of posting. For the latest information, please visit the Black Park website.
You can book Tots Go Wild sessions via the Buckinghamshire Country Parks Eventbrite page here.