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A holistic approach to child development attempts to address all aspects of a child’s development and growth simultaneously. This leads to a better understanding of why a child behaves in a particular way. In order to achieve this it is important to create an open and free environment where children’s natural intelligence is developed and encouraged; an environment that encourages natural curiosity and a love of nature; that encourages children to develop a sense of responsibility and to problem solve and ask questions.This is just the type of environment that is created by Forest School.


Using either the PILESS: (Physical, Intellectual, Language (i.e. communication), Emotional, Social and Spiritual) or SPICES (Social, Physical, Intellectual, Communication, Emotional and Spiritual) methodology when planning, can ensure that sessions support this holistic development.


This holistic approach is perhaps best seen when applied to a particular activity. In this instance the activity started when the leader silenced the group and led them on a mysterious and circuitous route through the woods to a bush with strands of wool draped over it. This, he explained, was the breath of the Choo-choo people and had been left for the group to create friendship bracelets. The group worked in pairs, helping each other to plait 2 strands of wool and tie them to form a bracelet. They then continued their walk to find the Choo-choo village which they discovered had been destroyed by a dragon. The group was given the task of finding materials to rebuild the village (small shelter building) and the Forest School leader moved around the group encouraging them to talk about who lived in their houses. These stories were then developed and shared with the rest of the group during the celebration of work.


Using the SPICES methodology you can see how all aspects of development were covered by this activity.


Social – supporting others, working collaboratively and in a team, self-esteem, sharing and turn taking, understanding the difference between reality and imaginary play (able to have fun), decision making, negotiation, ability to cope with others using and adapting their stories/ideas.

Physical – movement, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, using different muscle groups.

Intellectual – story telling vocabulary, design and building of structures, imagination, decision making, thinking skills, problem solving, independence.

Communication – creative expression, decision making, eye contact when making friendship bracelet, listening skills, story telling vocabulary, non verbal communication.

Emotional – individual points of view respected, sense of achievement raises self-esteem, empathy and respect of others stories, creative expression, excitement, perseverance, imagination, dealing with emotions through play. Ability to cope with others adapting their ideas and story

Spiritual – beauty of nature, individual points of view and belief, community ethos.

How Forest Schools can support an individual’s holistic development and learning

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