Community Food & Wellness Maplewood Schools / Kids South Orange Towns

Outdoor Learning for Kids Movement is Growing in SOMA

The following is from the South Mountain Nature School, the Maplewood Outside School, and Biddle and Bop

There’s an old adage about kids coming in from the rain. But recent research suggests outside immersion play supports children’s minds, bodies and spirits. We are seeing a boom in the U.S.  demanding schools that immerse kids in the outdoors, in all weather.

The “forest school” philosophy is taking off faster than a kid can find her way to a mud puddle. The hard part lately is finding one.

Lucky for us, if you are interested in getting your child more involved in the wilderness around us, we now have two options for kids ages 2-8 in our area. The South Mountain Nature School which opened last year offers classes for kids ages 2-8, and Maplewood Outside School, which began offering classes this summer, offers classes for kids 2-4.

Says South Mountain Nature School founder and lead teacher Mary Clair Austin Sonneman, “forest school is a wonderful experience for children because it engages all of their senses and taps into their innate sense of wonder and curiosity about the natural world. It encourages exploration and discovery. It’s great exercise. It fosters a wonderful sense of community. Children splash in puddles, build mud castles and spot leaping frogs. And it’s a joyful time.”

Maplewood Outside School’s Director Christy Zolty agrees. She adds, “Maplewood Outside School operates entirely outdoors, and creates a curriculum based around the children’s interest in different parts of nature. If the children show an interest in insects, we will craft a series of classes where we search for bugs, learn their names, how they move, where they live, etc.”

But before you sign your child up, you will want to make sure she’s properly attired. As they say in Norway, “there’s no bad weather, only bad clothes.” And Biddle and Bop of West Orange is here to help.

They offer plenty of one-piece, all-weather suits ( as well as other high quality clothing for kids headed out to overturn rocks and logs in a rainstorm. “We carry a selection of fantastic waterproof gear from Europe that is skin friendly and non-toxic,” says Jessica Schaefer of Biddle and Bop. They are online only, and (BONUS!) deliver free of charge to SOMA, so you don’t need to load your tiny explorer into the car to find the right clothes.

Fall classes are filling up quickly for both schools, so be sure to register soon.

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