PSED and Forest School

Where do we even start on this subject!? 


It can go in so many different ways but the one that is the biggest for me personally is how much children are struggling at the moment! 


Is it the last three years of holding things in or the 3 years of relentless change, loss and uncertainty that has caused such a challenge this year for so many children and adolescents???? 


Whatever it has been, because let’s face it, there is so much that has gone that it will be unique to each individual, and it has created a huge impact on their lives…


Their lives, to be able to:

  • Be confident
  • Regulate Emotions
  • Deal with overwhelm
  • Deal with Change
  • Manage their feelings and behaviours
  • Mentally function 
  • Feel happy, content
  • The list just goes on! 

Not all children have been affected, but the ones that have… wow wee! 


Before we delve any deeper I think it is really important we understand the definition of PSED….


All this jargon can be quite confusing! 


Personal Social and Emotional Development (PSED) supports children to have a positive sense of themselves, respect for others, social skills, emotional well-being and a positive disposition to learning. These are all crucial for school readiness. PSED is about children: developing confidence and independence.” Bracknall Forest Council 

I could sit here and write all about PSED and what it is, but it’s no good telling you what it is without telling you what we can do to help and how our forest school has helped individuals. 

Children and families have experienced so much over the last few years, we have witnessed pandemics, wars and financial struggles! 

Even just over the last 2-3 months we have seen an increase in children in our sessions struggling to manage their overall PSED…

Children have even come to us from struggling to manage inside venues and other groups to us being one of their only safe and secure places they can successfully manage and explore these feelings, behaviours etc… 

We have experienced children with emotional outbursts, being overwhelmed with a mixture of feelings and having no way to manage these can be quite scary for the child and for the carers or staff around them… but why? Why is this even happening in the first place? 

I don’t have the answer to why as there could be so many factors and I am not an expert in this field but I have a really good understanding of emotions, and helping children explore, identify, manage and sometimes overcome these moments of overwhelm. 


Here is only a small list of some things that have been effecting the different area although many probably overlap!

Personal Development


Well being


Self esteem

Social Development


Gauging moods

Reading people






Emotional Development



Thoughts of Covid 

Thoughts of War



CAMHS – I here so many times that children have been referred to CAMHS but are yet to hear from them or get assessments… 


Here is something from their latest benchmarking –

“A record number of referrals into CAMHS, at more than 3,000 per 100,000 children nationwide, but with wide variations in localities rising to some 7% of children in some areas. This represents a 15% increase in just one year in referrals to CAMHS (the highest rate of increase of any speciality in the NHS this year). The proportion of referrals accepted by CAMHS varies widely between trusts, at an average of 77% nationally (a figure that has not changed markedly in recent years despite the increase in referrals), of whom 69% were seen more than once after they were accepted. This equates nationally to 1,760 children per 100,000 currently on the caseload of CAMHS, but once again with wide variations between regions and localities in the proportions of those referred who then received treatment.

This year’s report shows a record number of referrals into CAMHS, at more than 3,000 per 100,000 children nationwide… This represents a 15% increase in just one year in referrals to CAMHS”

There are as many if not more 22% for referral that have waited more than 18 weeks for support.




No matter who we are if we are experiencing moments of emotional overwhelm and anxiety it releases chemicals into our brains. This can be Cortisol (released when we are stressed) and Norepinephrine (Released when we feel anxious). When we release these it can cause a chemical imbalance in our brains impacting on some of the below:



  • Concentration
  • Listening & Attention
  • Social Interaction
  • Regulation
  • Emotional Overwhelm
  • Behaviour
  • Relationships
  • And so many more

Being in our or any woodland environment somehow really helps people to begin to explore feeling, regulate, manage and come up with techniques to help them in the future.


Children that have been attending our sessions over a period of time have reflected on their emotions and behaviours, explore why they may feel this way, and what can help them. I have seen huge improvements in children’s confidence, self esteem and the ability to manage their emotions.


It is really quite remarkable and I absolutely love seeing the journey these children go on when they are with us… from at the start to only being able to identify emotions such as “I feel angry” to “I feel frustrated, sad, anxious, scared and this is why I am reacting the way I am”, but “that is fine I know now how I can help myself feel better”.

Over the last 6 months more than ever we have been really working with a whole range of children from Home Ed, Primary School Children, Foster Children, Children who have experienced ACE’s in their lives.




Here are some ideas to help you and your child manage those feeling of overwhelm:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Rate my Mood – Each morning give yourself a self-check in, how do you feel now? On a scale of 0-10. 0 being down in the dumps to 10 feeling on top of the world. Once you have checked in explore, why do I feel like that? If my score is low, what can I do to make myself feel happier?

Nature Connection – Spending time outdoors massively improves your mental health and well being honestly there is Science that can back me up

Space to explore boundaries physically and socially – if you are feeling overwhelmed or experiencing an emotional outburst get outside, remove those four walls and take 10 deep breaths.

Clay – Grab a big handful and really mould, bash, flatten, squeeze the emotions into the clay. Clay has been known to have amazing therapeutic properties.

Sticks – Ever feel like breaking something? Get that angry when the phrase “seeing red” occurs?

You are not on your own. When you feel that the Cortisol/Norepinephrine chemicals are overloading your brain causing it to become unbalanced.

We sit and just simply snapped sticks (the dryer all the better for snapping with) whilst focusing on breathing techniques to bring our feelings of overwhelm pass. Only when we become calmer and in control can we begin to think or rationalise our behaviours and feelings.

Nature Journaling – Grab a scrap book and document what you notice in nature and reflect on your feelings. This also works really well linking to rate my mood as we can reflect on the effect of nature on our moods.

Twirling – You must think I am mad!

But it is such a great way to show/explain how we often feel out of control. Think about how you feel before you are about to spin? Excited, nervous, excited? Adrenaline release and if we are nervous sometimes cortisol… ok now in a safe surrounding spin until you feel dizzy… How do you feel now? Out of control? Now sit down and take 10 deep breaths and feel how your body becomes more settled and you are more in control. This is sometimes how we feel when incidents/events occur in our lives and we often can feel out of control, but the key is acknowledging when you are feeling like that and finding something that helps you bring control whether that is a mindful activity, or snapping sticks, colouring or listening to music…

When doing this you become more in control.

In life we will all experience moments of being out of control.

The key to this is knowing that with techniques and a little help from friends and family it will pass.

Here are Forest Frontiers we are always keeping up to date with training we are Therapeutically trained for outdoors and currently looking into play therapy as we see such value in our sessions, value of play and the value of both being in a natural environment and the positive impact on children and families lives. 

Thank you so much for reading and we hope this helps and gives you some food for thought, and ideas to help yourself or others.