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A Wood Kindergarten is a type of preschool that was first conceived in Scandinavia. A Wood Kindergarten is a daycare for children between the ages of three and six that is held exclusively outdoors, in nature.
Also known asEdit
In the 1950s, Ella Flautau created the first Wood Kindergartens in Denmark. The idea formed gradually as a result of her often spending time with her own and neighbors' children in a nearby forest, a form of daycare which elicited great interest among the neighborhood parents. The parents formed a group and created an initiative to establish the first Wood Kindergarten. Since then, the idea has spread to other Scandinavian countries and beyond.
Wood Kindergartens have existed in Germany since 1968, but were first officially recognized as a form of daycare in 1993, enabling state subsidies to reduce the daycare fees of children who attended Wood Kindergarten. Since then, the Wood Kindergartens have become increasingly popular. As of 2005, there were approximately 450 Wood Kindergartens in Germany.
The idea was brought to Britain by Scottish childminder Cathy Bache, who opened her project with support from funding authorities and private donors. The Secret Garden is near Monimail Tower, south of the Firth of Tay in Fife. It aims to counter the over-protection and lack of risk in everyday life, as well as the health threats of childhood obesity. 
A Wood Kindergarten can be described as a "kindergarten without a ceiling or walls." The distinction between it and other forms of preschool is that in a Wood Kindergarten, the daycare workers and children spend their time outdoors, in a forest, meadow, or on a beach. Another distinctive feature of Wood Kindergartens is the emphasis on play with toys that are fashioned out of objects that can be found in nature, rather than commercial toys. Despite these differences, Wood Kindergartens are meant to fulfill the same basic purpose as other preschools, namely, to care for, stimulate, and educate young children.
The kindergarten is held outdoors in all seasons and under most weather conditions, although for safety, it is moved indoors if the temperature is below -10°C, or if there is a thunderstorm, wind storm, extreme snow storm, or hail. Near the outdoor area of the Wood Kindergarten, there must be a sheltered, heated indoor area provided in case of bad weather. Wood Kindergartens are generally composed of a group of 15 to 20 children and at least two daycare specialists.
Impact of outdoor educationEdit
Playing outside for prolonged periods has been shown to have a positive impact on children's development, particularly in the areas of manual dexterity, physical coordination, tactile sensitivity, and depth perception.  According to these studies, children who attend Wood Kindergartens experience fewer injuries due to accidents and are less likely to injure themselves in a fall. Other studies have shown that playing outdoors strengthens the immune systems of children and daycare professionals.
The fact that most Wood Kindergartens do not provide commercial toys that have a predefined meaning or purpose supports the development of language skills, as children verbally create a common understanding of the objects used as toys in the context of their play. Wood Kindergartens are also generally less noisy than closed rooms, and noise has been shown to be a factor in the stress level of children and daycare professionals.
- Outdoor Preschool at Lakeside School
- Macleans' article on outdoor preschool in the UK, and outdoor education for children in general
- The Guardian article on outdoor preschool in Fife, Scotland
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