First Scandinavian-inspired ‘forest school’ soft play opens in Bristol

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It hopes to offer visitors a ‘calm, nature-inspired alternative to noisy soft play centres’

A new ‘forest school’ soft play space and cafe has opened at Paintworks in Bristol. Out There Indoors has been created by Out There, Bristol’s first ‘forest school’ kindergarten, and it hopes to offer visitors a ‘calm, nature-inspired alternative to noisy soft play centres’.

First developed in Scandinavia, ‘forest school’ is about much more than being outdoors, according to Jenny Brough and Mika Georgelin, the Bristol-based couple behind the new venue.

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Jenny says: “Forest school is about allowing children to explore — to take risks and challenge themselves, building their confidence and resilience in the process. Out There Inside brings that ethos inside to create a really unique play environment.”

Located in Zone C of Paintworks on Bath Road, Brislington, the Scandinavian influence carries through to the space itself. The bright, airy play cafe is filled with natural materials and carefully chosen resources to promote self-directed play.

From sensory items to loose parts, role play to small world resources, even tree climbing has been given an indoor spin with a climbing wall to promote physical movement and exploration. This nature-inspired approach applies to the cafe too.

Partnering with Matter Wholefoods, a local organic fruit and veg supplier, the cafe serves fairtrade, single-origin coffee alongside a seasonal range of toasties, soups and salads, with mini toasties and healthy tapas for children.

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Mika says: “Finding a place you can eat out as a family where kids are actually welcome and able to be themselves is hard. We wanted to create somewhere families can enjoy a simple, nutritious meal together as part of the Out There Indoor experience.”

Inside the new Out There Indoors ‘forest school’ soft play space at PaintworksInside the new Out There Indoors ‘forest school’ soft play space at Paintworks
Inside the new Out There Indoors ‘forest school’ soft play space at Paintworks

More than just a space, Jenny and Mika hope that this forest-school spin-off could be the start of a whole new movement and approach to indoor play.

Jenny says: “I’ve had this idea of creating a soft-play-that’s-not-a-soft-play since 2017. Seeing it come to life, we kept joking that it was a ‘hard play’ and the idea has stuck.

“Hard not only because wood is the main material in the space, but also because play is a serious business for children, it’s hard work. We’re proud to have built a space that enables children to try hard things and prove to themselves just how resourceful, capable, and independent they are.”

Out There Indoors is now open. Sessions for 0-4 year olds and their siblings up to 7 years can be pre-booked on the website and the play cafe is also available for birthday parties.