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 my 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
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.
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 simple guide to Shame, Betsy De Thierry – This book covers shame and highlights how some socially acceptable ways of treating children are actually deeply unhealthy, and gives solid reasons why- empowering you to change how you act, so the kids in your care are better supported.
The Whole Brain Child, Siegel & Bryson We joke that this book is the extended version of the simple guide to child trauma (it’s not, they’re different authors). Parents, teachers, anyone in regular contact with children- especially children with difficult behaviour, this book is a must read. It’s super accessible, and dramatically improved our practise.
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!
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. Not to mention 15 knives will set you back about £100.
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.
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 These are great, and if you can wait, £3 from china on eBay (search ‘fire starter whistle magnesium’)- definitely get this variety with the cardboard box and a whistle, even if you don’t want the whistle- all the cheap ‘fire steel only’ designs we’ve tried are rubbish with tiny fero rods and strikers that bend. These are decent steels that give good sparks, in our experience comparable to the (much more expensive!) ‘light my fire’ branded steels.
Fire Steels with bigger, wooden handles Small hands sometimes struggle with the awkward handle on the first fire steel, this one looks like it’s got the same ‘business end’ but with a better handle. 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. We’ve not tried these yet so can’t directly vouch for them.
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.
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 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.
Fiskars XA3 Brush Hook – These aren’t on Amazon right now, but they’re normally around £23 on eBay. Brilliant tools, we use them or a froe for children to split firewood. They’re also phenomenal at clearing woodland when no children are present!
Walkie Talkies- Frustratingly most cheap chinese walkie talkies selling on ebay, 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 buy whatever you can find cheap which runs on AA batteries- we use Cobra MT645 and replaced the (rubbish) supplied batteries with Eneloops so they last forever and never give up mid session! If you have a site bigger than about 5 acres consider looking into more powerful walkie talkies which will require you to pay a license fee (starting at £75 per 5 years).
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!