This page is all about kit or resources which we use, think are excellent, and think other settings would benefit from knowing about. We haven’t and won’t put anything here that we think would disappoint someone interested in child development or the outdoors!
Links to most of the items below are from the amazon affiliate program- if you buy using these links we get a small cut (thankyou!)- but do feel free to look around and buy elsewhere if it makes sense to you. You getting the right book or kit for your setting means the children benefit, and that’s way more important than anything else.
If you’re reading this and you think there’s something missing, please let us know by emailing email@example.com.
Obviously all kit is purchased, risk assessed and used by you. BroadTree accept no responsibility for any adverse consequences of you choosing to use anything listed below in your setting.
Books that have inspired us
Here are a few books that have dramatically positively shaped our practise. We hope they help you too.
The Whole Brain Child, Siegel & Bryson This forms a cornerstone of what we do. We think that parents, teachers, anyone in regular contact with children- especially children with difficult behaviour, will see their lives really improve by practising what’s in this book. It’s super accessible, and is the basis for everything we do.
The simple guide to Child Trauma, Betsy De Thierry – A great introduction to tricky behaviour in children (well, everyone). If you’ve ever looked at a unhappy child and thought ‘I have no idea whats going on and everything I’ve tried to do hasn’t helped’- this book contains the information that’ll help you help them better next time. De Thierry has numerous other simple guide books and we recommend all of them.
The simple guide to sensitive boys, Betsy De Thierry – Ever looked at how boys are treated by society and felt uneasy? Or maybe you’re aware the male suicide rate is 3x the female suicide rate, and you’ve gone ‘hmm, is this healthy?’. If so, try reading this book. It puts language around those implicit messages, and explains some of the problems with the current societical view of gender norms, which enabled us to create sessions and dynamics that help, rather than hinder, those that feel like they don’t fit ‘normal’.
The courage to be disliked and The courage to be happy are truly excellent books that outline a different way of interacting with ourselves and others which makes life dramatically easier. We’d stumbled across a few of the ideas ourselves as we kept trying to tune our practise to best suit the children we work with, and a few of the ideas enabled us to shortcut to better ways of working.
Nonviolent Communication, Marshall B. Rosenberg This is what the english language GCSE and A level syllabus should be, in our opinion. This book teaches a fantastic method of communicating. We’ve adopted the concepts within wholeheartedly with excellent results.
Nurtureshock, Bronson & Merryman This book clearly distills a lot of scientific research around how to best nurture children- some of the points are suprising because it’s not always inherently obvious! Check out the first chapter free here.
Kit we use
Unless stated otherwise, we own and use these at our sessions. Check out our social media and you’ll probably see most of it in the background!
We bought a medium first aid kit and took some things out and added others to suit what we do. Notable additions were tick tweezers and better finger bandages.
We have a separate burns kit, which contains a shortened roll of cling film, gloves, a burnshield dressing and burnshield spray.
And finally, getting cold is an enormous risk for an injured person. We carry a foam sit mat and a small emergency shelter to enable us to get them insulated from the floor and put a warm bubble around them. In a pinch the emergency shelter can also be used as a stretcher.
Wet / Cold Weather
Portwest A140 Thermal Grip Gloves These are great gloves. Cheap, warm, chuck them in the washing machine when they get too muddy, cut resistant for tool use, and the smallest size (XS) fits most 9 or 10 year olds. For bulk buying, we used MI supplies as they were a bit cheaper and had more sizes available, but if you want to try a pair or two before committing, toolstation sell them as ‘thermogrip gloves’- unfortunately they don’t stock XS. The gloves come with different coloured hems depending on the size so they’re really easy to sort at the end of a session!
Summit gear 15 person group shelter This is the perfect size for a “normal” group of 12-14 kids plus 2 adults. It’s useable down to about 5 kids, below that it starts getting a bit too big. Highly recommended if you’re doing cold weather sessions- it warms up in no time and is great for a snack and a cup of hot ribena. Have a few soft balls to chuck around inside to keep everyone engaged and moving! Note- it will never ever ever go back in the bag it comes in- so ours now gets stuffed back into a bagbase BG125 fashion backpack, and the bag it came in is used to take wood wool to sessions (We buy in big 1KG bags and dispense from there) to start fires.
Fire Steels with bigger, wooden handles Small hands need big handles, and this is the best we’ve found so far by a long way. These are decent steels that give good sparks, in our experience comparable to the much more expensive branded steels. Again they’re cheaper on eBay, search “Cardinal Fire Steel” if you’re in a hurry for a reasonable UK reseller, or “Premium Survival Fire Steel” for the cheaper slow posted from China variety. Avoid small cheap fire steels at all cost. The strikers bend and they aren’t beginner friendly at all.
Hultafors SKR 380090 stainless steel safety knife A razor sharp, full blooded knife that looks and handles like a “real” knife- but eliminates the risk of stab injuries. We can’t think of a single reason to use knives with sharp stabbing tips at Forest School. Stainless steel and scandi grind makes it easy to care for, and the blue handle means it doesn’t get lost on the floor. Basically, Hultafors sat down one day and designed the perfect FS knife. Thanks!
Fiskars SW75 saw We think the retracting blade is safer than a folding design. It’s also a fantastic saw! Ours has a 225mm long blade and we wouldn’t recommend going any smaller- children don’t usually have the co-ordination to start and stop at an exact point, so the longer blade seems easier for them to manage (We started with some cheap 150mm saws which are now unused!). This serves a dual purpose as an activity for the children, plus a useful tool that may help you sort a hazardous tree situation you find during your pre session checks.
Froe- A great tool for splitting wood, but it does have weaknesses.
- It’s much less ‘weapon’ like than a bill hook, axe, etc, so inherently safer
- Easy to make thin slices of kindling with it- unlike an axe which is hard to place exactly mid swing
- Creates teamwork and trust when using
- You can use it to hold up awkward pieces of wood whilst they’re being split
- No need for it to be sharp- again, safer, less maintenance
- Pretty much indestructible
- Since they’re rare it’s a nice introduction to old woodworking- you can make wooden roofing tiles with them and explain around that, if that’s your bag
- Vibration through the handle is a problem. If you are using it frequently I strongly suggest you aren’t the one holding it all the time. Unless you want RSI or carpal tunnel.
- The mallet bouncing off and hitting fingers is a problem. It’s rare, but it happens. I considered a metal guard but haven’t done it yet because if that gets hit and bent and stuck in fingers that’s far worse….
- Tricky to get hold of- since they’re rare, they’re generally more expensive or harder to source than alternatives
Walkie Talkies- Frustratingly most cheap chinese walkie talkies selling on ebay, amazon, etc, aren’t legal out the box for use in the UK. PMR walkie talkies are free to use, legal across the UK and EU, and work really well for our site. We’ve tested the range to be at least 250m through trees in the middle of summer- they will go much further than that without trees in the way! All PMR radios are compatible with each other, so we buy whatever we can find cheap which runs on AA batteries (built in battery packs tend to degrade and die after a few years)- we use Cobra MT645 and replaced the supplied batteries with Eneloops so they last forever and never give up mid session! If you have a site bigger than about 5 acres you may need to consider looking into more powerful walkie talkies which will require you to pay a license fee (starting at £75 per 5 years).
Chemical Toilet This is a cheap, good chemical toilet, pair it with some chemical goo, some antibac gel, a pop up tent and a toilet roll holder (currently £3, don’t spend the full £15 asking price for that!!) and you’ve got a nice portable chemical loo for about £115.
Large Fire Gloves and Small Fire Gloves – Fire gloves need to be big enough that you can get them off by shaking your hand around! So although the small gloves aren’t really that small, they should be the right size for 9-10 year olds+.
Marshmallows Tesco 2 packs for £1.50 are the best toasting marshmallows we’ve used. Supermarkets often sell bamboo skewers too which work well.
There’s obviously way more kit needed than this- but most of the rest we’ve found no clear standout. Any stainless steel flask works, any cotton wool works, etc etc. Happy Forest Schooling!