Adventure with Forest Friends

Adventures are always better with a friend! In this activity, kids create outdoor adventures and play experiences they can enjoy with a homemade forest friend made from a sock and rice. Incorporating a forest friend into outdoor time is a super way to inspire imaginative play. And, prompting kids to think about what their forest friend needs and how it likes to play helps kids develop cognitive empathy-the ability to take another's perspective.

Don't yet have a forest friend? Find easy directions below, or just take a favorite stuffed animal on the journey!

The Guide

Step 1: Make a forest friend.

Follow the instructions in our Make a Forest Friend DIY activity or grab a stuffed animal and head outside.

Step 2: Promote empathy.

Invite your child to tell you about their forest friend or stuffed animal. What is their name? How are they feeling today? What do they like to eat? Where do they like to sleep? How does their friend like to play? Does forest friend like big, wild adventures? Or cozy, quiet activities?

Step 3: Create play adventures for forest friend.

Say, “Now that forest friend is a part of our family and we learned how it feels and likes to play, should we go on some adventures with our friend?” Welcome any ideas your child comes up with. Support play by helping to plan the adventures and/or gather materials. Need ideas? Try out some of these adventures with forest friend:

  • Show your forest friend a special spot: Head outside to introduce forest friend to one of your child’s favorite outdoor spots. Does your child have a favorite tree to show their forest friend? Favorite flower? Favorite hideout or place to swing, jump or climb? 
  • Take your forest friend for a walk: Take your forest friend with you on your next trek or adventure! Create a bindle to carry them, or use a box or cookie sheet to create a sled to pull forest friend. Got an old stroller or wagon? Pull your friend around!
  • Make a cozy space for forest friend: Offer materials your kids can use to create special spaces just for forest friend. Create a space to read or sing to/with your forest friend, a soft and cozy sleeping space or use mud and nature treasures to prepare a meal for their homemade friend.
  • Playground for forest friend: Ask kids how their forest friend likes to play. Then, offer materials to help them create “just right” outdoor play experiences for their friend. Here are some ideas:
    • Slide: Prop a board or cookie sheet against a tree to make a slide for their special friend. 
    • Seesaw/catapult: Place a log or rock underneath the middle of the board to make a balance game for forest friend. Put the forest friend on one side of the seesaw and press down or jump on the other side to make a catapult.
    • Swing/trampoline: Put the forest friend on a towel and gather the ends in your hands to make a swing. Hold two sides of the towel taut in each hand to bounce the forest friend up and down.
    • Pulley/zipline: Use rope and a basket or bucket to make a pulley to move forest friend up and down. Or, tie the rope between two trees to make a zipline.

Step 4: Share! 

Take photos of your child’s outdoor adventures with forest friend and share in the OutdoorsAll4 Group or by tagging @tinkergarten to inspire others to create their own play adventures with forest friends.

Why is this activity great for kids?

Pretending and play with dolls or "stuffies" can help kids form strong roots of perspective-taking that grow into more sophisticated cognitive empathy.

There's great wisdom in, "Do unto others as you would have done to you." But, empathy is actually about understanding what the other person would want, not just what we would. In this activity, we give kids the opportunity to rewrite the golden rule to "Do unto others as they would prefer."

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