About Forest Schools & Other Unlicensed Programs for Ages 0-5

BPN does not accept posts about unlicensed programs for children under 5. 

Programs for preschool-aged children that take place exclusively outdoors are sometimes called "Forest Schools." These programs cannot be licensed as required by the State of California unless they have a permanent indoor site. 

California's childcare licensing regulations are based on the assumption that there is a site that can be inspected every year to make sure it is safe for children.  There are safety, health, and hygiene regulations that dictate how toileting and diapering facilities should be set up, how food is stored, whether drinking water is easily accessible, and how safe the outdoor play area is, such as availability of shade and absence of hazardous objects. State regulations also protect children who are cared for away from their homes by requiring background checks for all adults at the childcare site, safety and first-aid training for staff, and reasonable adult-to-child ratios.

BPN recommends that parents not use unlicensed programs for their young children because basic protections cannot be assured.  At the same time, we acknowledge the increasing popularity of outdoor programs and we have written to the state to ask whether outdoor programs can be licensed, but have received no response.  It would presumably require the state legislature to create new regulations for this type of program. In the meantime, we recommend that outdoor programs identify an indoor space where children can meet, eat, sleep, use the toilet, and obtain a license for the space, or partner with an organization near a park that already has a childcare license.

For more information about BPN's policy on licensing see About Childcare Licensing in California.