Forest School at Home // East: Common Sense

Mar 27, 2020

The East marks the beginning of the day, the year, and human life, so here we place the foundational quality we want to see emerge: Common Sense

The origin of this quality rises from the practical use of the physical senses. It’s also known as “street smarts” or “good sense.” Common Sense emerges from a basic habit of paying attention with all the senses alert. This can show up by knowing how to get dressed for the rain, Lyme Disease prevention, stepping out of the darkness without a flashlight, identifying poison ivy and deadwood, for example. You’ll see it in the way your little approaches a new situation- pausing, observing patterns and behaviors of others.

Instead of watching over their every step and keeping them away from the forces of nature, guide your littles to learn for themselves so they can acquire the knowledge of real hazards and learn how to avoid them or deal with them. So this week, we’ll provide experiences for sensible choice making and then step back to observe as Common Sense becomes more and more common in our community. (Jon Young)

play is a process

A gentle reminder that at Forest School, PLAY is:

  1. A process….
  2. That is freely chosen…
  3. …Personally directed
  4. And intrinsically chosen…
  5. …Children determine the content…
  6. And intent of their play…
  7. …By following their own instincts, ideas and interests
  8. In their own way…
  9. …For their own reasons

…So let’s set them up and then let them fly.

Activity: Sit Spot

Age: All ages

Time: Start with 4-5 minutes for 4-6 year olds. Older people might have the capacity to sit still for around 15 minutes. Personally, I can sit for about 10 minutes (on a good day!) and have started to move my morning meditation practice outside to better establish my Sit Spot practice and to cultivate more stories to share. My littles and I have a sit spot that can vary from a chair in the sun to a bench near a little pond. Each is called our Sit Spot to familiarize them with the name and concept. We often go together and sometimes sit in silence and other times, chat about what we see, hear, smell, feel, wish etc. It’s very fluid and a beautiful way to start or end the day. We either greet the sun or the moon, depending on the flow of the day.

Material: We don’t recommend taking toys, equipment, lunch, pets or friends to the Sit Spot, as the whole idea is to be private, fully attentive and make no disturbance- to “lose you mind and come to your senses.”

Skills: Common sense, expanding our senses, hiding, spying, discovering, seeing animals close up, mindfulness

How To:

Inspire- Tell a story to inspire your little. Perhaps about an experience you had in a sit spot or ask them if they’d like to be able to see or touch a wild animal. I’ll also help with a personal story during our ZOOM call on Tuesday.

Find a Spot- Wherever you are, ask your little to find a special Sit Spot (perhaps in your backyard/side yard etc.) where they will sit still and be silent to see what they notice. Keep your little in earshot. Once they find a spot, they will sit as still and as quiet as the can, and turn on their Owl Eyes and Deer Ears to see what comes. Caregivers- feel free to find your own Sit Spot too or join your little in their Sit Spot if that works better for you. Again, I’ll help to prompt this on Tuesday, as well.

bear in a sit spot at forest school

Give a Time Limit- Tell your little you will call them back in a few minutes and ask them not to come back until they hear your call. Create a family call- whether it’s a wolf howl or a crow call. Expect a wide range of reactions. No matter how long they sit (or don’t sit), some will want more, others less. And it’s ok if your little is not ready for a Sit Spot. A Sit Spot can be uncomfortable for us all and it should flow naturally and should never be a forced or boring activity. Caregivers, telling personal stories from your Sit Spot will also help inspire your little to give it a try.

A helpful tip- playing “Hide + Seek” outside and giving them extra time to hide, is also a great way to introduce a Sit Spot. Plus they’ll develop empathy for animals that need to hide, awareness of camouflage and landscape, and the ability to be more still.

Return with a Story of the Day- Call them back and ask them what they noticed. Making time for telling personal Sit Spot stories is a great way to start or end the day.

Why it’s Great- a Sit Spot can become a beautiful daily mindfulness practice for some. Once the stories start coming home, you’ll soon see that it’s the sitting that reveals the perfection, because every spot it perfect.

Activity: Get Lost

Age: All ages

Time: Half hour to an hour (depending on where you’re walking)

Material: None, just the ability to walk outside

Skills: common sense, self-sufficiency, wandering, questioning and tracking, survival, hiding, seeking, being lost and being found, taking a challenge, problem solving

How To:

Wander- wander with your little(s) until you’ve gone into territory new and unknown to them (around the neighborhood, on a hike etc.) Wander a bit until you think your wander-mates have become distracted from paying attention to where they’ve been going. For littles, this won’t be very far. Wherever you go, make sure you know the area well enough to navigate out regardless of whether anyone else has paid attention

Put Forth the Challenge- Then announce that you give up your leadership; you’ll have to pretend that you have no idea how to get back and that your little will need to find the way back home. If they don’t, well…we’ll just be lost.

Prompt dialogue- Ask your little about how to get home. What should our strategy be? Help facilitate conversation over remembered landmarks. Help everyone express his or her voice. Choose when to step in and “save the day” if necessary. Keep the encouragement upbeat, as this sudden challenge can bring up emotion, especially in group dynamics. Personally, my sense of direction isn’t great and I often tell my little that fun fact. Subsequently, I’m quite grateful when she helps us find our way home. We get super excited about landmarks we remember and then when we finally do get home, I tell whoever is there what a wonderful job my little did helping to get us home. She is always very proud.

crocuses under a tree

Why it’s Great- you’re generating a need for your littles to be aware of their surroundings at all times. During wanders, if you occasionally spring on them that you are all “lost” and they need to find the way back themselves, they will begin to pay attention to bearings, directions, and landmarks. Plus, the landmarks may now have new interesting characteristics based on your little’s  imagination. My little called a weeping willow landmark, the “spooky hand tree” and its crocuses “mama’s favorite color flower” and now knows to make a left there to get home. You’ll be blown away at their ability to problem solve and simultaneously be wildly creative.


As always, these activities are mere suggestions to help you and your little(s) connect more with yourself, each other and with nature. They are by no means, prescribed, as is nothing in Forest School. Like nature, we are here to guide and support you, as you nourish you and your family’s mind, body and soul.

You’ve got this and we’ve got this!