Last night my husband and I stumbled across this video. It was titled "The Danish School Where Children Play With Knives". This isn't the first time we've had a conversation about young kids being taught how to use sharp knives properly.
The forest kindergartens of Denmark allow children to roam freely in the forests and learn about nature while playing and exploring. About 10% of preschools in Denmark use forests as their schools no matter what the weather is like outside. Come sunshine, snow, rain or snow those kids are out there learning.
There are no fences or boundaries for the kids but they learn to know their limits. And while they are allowed to climb and explore to their hearts content they are not unsupervised. These forest kindergartens are often run by pedagogues who have university degrees in human development, so this isn't just some hippie concept.
Outdoor education specialist, Jane Williams-Siegfredsen says: "Many cultures like to wrap their children up in cotton wool. I don't think that's about a lack of love here for children by their parents. They see it in a different way, that children should have the chance to be free".
The kids are also taught how to whittle with sharp knives, Williams-Siegfredsen insists that this is not dangerous, "the children have used how to use the knives properly. So it's not a weapon, it's a tool."
At one point in the video, a boy climbs a particularly high tree and the pedagogue in charge is asked about his approach to safety. "You have to use your brain. And you have to trust that the kids can take care of themselves." Young Matti, by this point is high up in the tree, and is asked if he is afraid of anything and he confidently says no.
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He says the kids learn to be careful and it's part of their learning. He does admit that sometimes kids do get hurt but that's the way they learn. Only once in 17 years has he had to drive a child to the hospital and that was because a parent had driven over a foot of one of the children.
One of the main reasons parents in Denmark are leaning towards forest kindergartens is because their kids are developing an unhealthy relationship with TV and technology, this provides them with a way to play and experience the outdoors on a daily basis.
Take a look at the video below, it's a bit long at 11 minutes but it's so fascinating:
Watching this I was so impressed and I think my 2-year-old son's personality and curiosity would thrive in an environment like this when he is a bit older and better at listening to instructions. If only we had these in South Africa!
What do you think of forest kindergartens? Would you send your child to one if they had any in South Africa? Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.