First “Forest Kindergarten” in Croatia Opened on Veli Vrh, Pula

Lauren Simmonds

Pula is following environmental and educational trends by opening the very first ”forest kindergarten” in the Republic of Croatia on Veli Vrh in Pula, Istria.

”It’s nice for parents to see a picture of their smiling child in the midst of greenery, picking flowers, but as soon as they need to leave him alone in the woods, panic begins. What if it rains, what if it gets cold outside, what if my child falls over a broken branch? They will need to be prepared for their child to come home dirty with mud, perhaps with a mosquito bite or even a tick. It’s all part of growing up in nature. If they’re ready for such things, then our nursery is the right thing for them,” explained the kindergarten’s owner.
as Glas Istre/Borka Petrovic writes on the 15th of September, 2019, Francesca Miličević grew up on Veli Vrh next to Tivoli forest in Pula, Istria, where she spent every free moment with her friends from the neighbourhood. They were playing carelessly in the woods, near their parents’ homes, growing up without the burden of mobile phones and the stress that today’s kids sadly know all too well.

When she grew up, this graduating psychologist and certified nanny, now the mother of a three-year-old boy herself, started thinking about kindergarten for her child. Unsatisfied with the options offered and unwilling to agree to have her child spend most of his time indoors, she came up with the idea of ​​giving her son, as well as other children, exactly what shaped her – a carefree childhood, growing up in the woods.

Behind the project of the first real forest kindergarten in Croatia, in which the children will reside almost constantly outside, are her association, Heartface, and the child care company “Forest children”. The forest kindergarten has the same name. As she explained, children will spend all their time outside in the forest nursery, where they will explore, play and develop their imaginations, their skills and motor skills. They will eat in the forest, and ultimately sleep there, too.

”Don’t jump, you’ll fall, you’ll get dirty, don’t climb up that… these are warnings that parents often give to their children. But you won’t hear them here. Children will grow up here in nature, in complete freedom. Of course, under our constant control, but nobody will stop them from sitting on the ground, getting dirty, taking off their shoes and jumping into a puddle,” Francesca said.

Glas Istre, a local Istrian portal, decided to visit Pula’s forest kindergarten to see it for themselves. Adriana Bertoncelj, a teacher, walks along like a fairy with a basket in her hand, through forest paths, while the sun breaks through the high pine branches. By her side are toddlers who are all being taken care of in this ourdoor, forest kindergarten. In the middle of the nursery area, stumps are arranged in a circle where the kids get to sit down and eat healthy muffins for breakfast.

But, they are not ready to eat. As soon as four-year-old Maxim arrives, he takes off his shoes and runs up and down the tracks, while three-year-old Mateo collects pine needles and throws them into the air, giggling.

”It’s nice, everything is nice here, I can’t decide what I like best,” young Maxim says after running up and down when asked how he likes the kindergarten.

When asked what the weather will be in the middle of winter, Francesca explains that the kindergarten also has a solid facility in which the children will be able to take shelter and sleep.

”I’ve leased a thousand square metres of land from Croatian Forests, and here, we will build two houses of about 15 square metres we can take shelter in, and in which we will sleep. We’ll also make a whole park here with climbing elements, swings, and everything we need,” she says.

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