Unstructured Play Outside:: Free Forest School of Central Ohio


I recall having the opportunity to spend an immense amount of time outdoors to explore and invent elaborate play scenarios while growing up. Whether it was pretending to have a made-up family, building a fort or making mud pies it was a blast! Children benefit from unstructured play outdoors within view of a parent (this is dependent upon the age of the child) to function in a play environment that encourages independent thinking and child-directed play. There are no predetermined rules and often limited organization. Playgrounds and outdoor spaces provide endless opportunities to explore and interact with the world.

Less structure in our household has created boredom, which is a good thing. Boredom fuels my boys’ creativity. My children love making their own comic books, imaginary play and spending extended periods outdoors.

Unstructured Play Encourages:

  • Co-operation
  • Learning
  • Building self-esteem
  • Imagination
  • Problem-solving
  • Creativity
  • Stress free environment
  • Social skills

The Forest School

“Fostering the next generation of environmental stewards, Free Forest School opens the door to nature play and emergent learning for thousands of children by empowering parents and caregivers to provide it themselves.”

Brookelyn Rambadt, local mom and director of the new Forest Free School of Central Ohio wanted to find a volunteer opportunity and provide something positive within the local community. Rambadt found a book at the library, called “There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather”. It introduced her to the forest preschool concept, which is common is Sweden. She learned more about the benefits of year-round, outdoor, unstructured play. She stumbled upon the Forest Free School while searching for local nature-based preschools. It was then that she decided that by starting the program she would be able to volunteer, do something with her children that would have a positive impact on the community. The program gives families a chance to experience some of the benefits of a forest school at no cost.


“Letting kids be kids, outdoors.”

Children learn how to navigate relationships and the world through play. Engaging children in unstructured play encourages curiosity and fosters the growth of lifelong learners, critical thinkers, future innovators, and leaders.


The Forest Free School program is based on the roots in the Scandinavian forest school tradition. The organization is completely run by parent/caregiver volunteers. With supervision the Free Forest School provides a gentle, nurturing environment that encourages child-directed play within a natural environment. Risk and adventure are best learned amongst children of varying ages. When children of all abilities are emerged into a natural environment, and feel a sense of inclusion and community they are able to develop cognitively, physically, and socially/emotionally. With time and the support from peers and parents/caregivers, the child will gain independence and confidence that will allow them to adapt and thrive in any environment.

Join the Central Ohio Free Forest Group

Interested parents and caregivers can simply ask to join the Free Forest School of Central Ohio Facebook group. Events are posted within the group, as well as other information. FREE for children ages 0 to 6.

Visit www.freeforestschool.org for more information.

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Leslie came to Columbus 2 yrs ago via San Antonio, TX. A Kentucky native that bleeds neither red (Louisville Cardinals) nor blue (Kentucky Wildcats). She is a SAHM, homeschooler and Occupational Therapist (OTR/L) by weekend. Leslie and her husband have two boys, ages 6 and 2, and they love discovering new Columbus parks and restaurants! She proudly embraces the title of "boy mom", even when that means knowing more than she would care to know about dinosaurs. Her everyday wardrobe consists of mainly Nike Dri-Fit and sneakers. Leslie lives for her Burt's Bees lip balm and a good ole top knot bun. You can always find pull-ups, wipes, hand sanitizer, and Welch's fruit snacks in her designer handbag. She loves her family, fashion, interior design, working out, being a soccer mom, renovating the families 1962 ranch with her husband, and making a difference in her patients' lives. She recently became an advocate and volunteer for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. It is her hope to bring awareness and help raise funds, for a cause that is near and dear to her heart. She is also the owner and founder of The Penmanship Lab.