Nature Kindergartens: A book review

One wild and precious life

Helen Huleatt | June 2012

‘Tell me... What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’

Mary Oliver’s quote begins this book and sets the tone for all within it. The book itself invites exploring; pages of textured paper adorned with ivy sprigs carry Claire Warden’s thorough thoughts on nature’s gift to children and Niki Buchan’s photos of children deeply engrossed in the myriad activities of nature.

Young child playing at the root of a big tree

Claire explains the background of forest schools and points out where a nature kindergarten diverges to serve the needs of early years. Nature kindergartens spend at least 70% of the time outdoors every day, in an area that becomes completely familiar to the children – yet changes continually through the changing hours and seasons.

The author’s respect for nature shines through every chapter. Nature is not used as an accessory but rather as the basis for everything the children learn. In the naturalistic learning described in this book, experiences are appreciated as they are afforded by the environment rather than planned ahead of time. The adults are there to support children rather than to ‘teach’ them. Many issues are touched on: life and death, community, food, risk, creativity, relationship, play, imagination... The ideas are deep and need time and thought to absorb. This is not a quick read; it is inspiration for a completely different outlook from the norm.

The reading never becomes heavy; excerpts of children’s conversations add freshness and open windows into their thinking on numerous topics (such as finding a dead pheasant). Likewise, photos of children’s artwork and nature constructions enhance the child-centred focus.

Because Claire is passionate and personal about the subject matter, she ends each chapter with key points to help make it personal for the reader as well. If this book is taken on board by the early years sector, it could have tremendous positive impact. 

Outdoor and nature
2–3 Years, 3–5 Years
Teacher training