The Free Forest School Model

If you want your little one to grow up playing freely outdoors and you’re interested in helping to create opportunities for your larger community to experience child-led play in nature, then starting a new Free Forest School group might be a good fit.


While many parents perceive the benefits of unstructured nature play, it can be intimidating to get started. Free Forest School provides a cooperative, non-judgmental atmosphere where parents and caregivers can experiment together with allowing young children to play in natural environments and supporting increasing autonomy and independence.

We Start Small

The largest Free Forest School groups now serve hundreds of families each week, but each one started as a small group with just one volunteer hosting a weekly outing. Over time, the group will grow organically – and we’ll be here to help you delegate the tasks and keep the load light on everyone.

Flexible and Adaptable

Many wonderful family nature clubs are started by one or two enthusiastic parents. During the time they are involved, the group thrives; when those key leaders move on, this type of group often fizzles out. Each Free Forest School group is led by a Leadership Teams – a simple, flexible model that does not rely on the involvement of any single volunteer.

Your Whole Family Benefits

Kids gain confidence through participating in a supportive community where they can be creative and free; their innate sense of wonder develops as they explore the natural world. Relaxing in a non-judgmental setting, parents say they are happier, more patient, and better in tune with their kids’ needs.

Bring nature-based learning to families in your community!

Bring nature-based learning to families in your community!

Some families attracted to Free Forest School are already making time for free play in nature.

Leading a Free Forest School group takes it to the next level — you will take a leadership role in sharing the ideas and values behind Free Forest School with your community.

Parent Teams Volunteer

Each Free Forest School group was started by parent volunteers who wanted to bring the Free Forest School experience to their community. If there’s not a group near you, starting a new one is always a possibility. We are here to help!

We Guide & Support

We’ll provide all the resources you need to get started. We also connect you to online forums and your own mentor – a seasoned Free Forest School director – who will help guide you as your group grows.

Communities Benefit

Free Forest School is constantly developing new applications of our core values to reach more families and more kids. You can expect information on pilot programs such as our Elementary Phenology Curriculum and Community Outreach.


Why start an official Free Forest School group over just meeting some friends to play in the woods? First, we can say that Free Forest School is not the right fit for everyone. We encourage you to read through this site carefully to learn about the model before jumping in. We invest significant resources, free of charge, to help new directors get started and we want to know you’re committed.

Simply put, one benefit of joining Free Forest School is being a part of something much larger than yourself. You have the privilege of providing leadership to bring nature play to your community. You benefit from finding a like-minded community of parents and caregivers; your children benefit from playing and learning in community. The benefits of gathering in community to play and explore are a unique experience that many families don’t find readily accessible. Another reason to join is that you won’t do it alone. As a large network, Free Forest School provides support to its directors in numerous ways: We provide startup materials on scouting locations and growing your group, access to international director and facilitator forums, the FFS liability waiver, one-on-one troubleshooting, and your very own Free Forest School mentor. We maintain a variety of resource lists, including nature and adventure related books and songs, child-directed activity prompts, and games. Lastly… It’s empowering, and it’s free! Unlike so many other nature-play programs, Free Forest School is completely free of charge. We operate on the belief that any parent or caregiver can do this themselves. Our leaders report a great sense of satisfaction as a result of taking a leadership role in their community through Free Forest School. Free Forest School incorporated in 2017 in order to support ongoing growth and bring FFS experiences to more kids by creating innovative models that bring nature play opportunities to families and children of all backgrounds. By starting a Free Forest School group, you will become part of a growing movement working to bring nature play experiences to all children.