In the morning between 8.00 and 8.25am, the children are brought by their parents to the meeting point on the edge of the forest. There, they are met by a group leader and two interns or trainees. All children are dressed according to the ‘onion principle’, i.e. in multiple layers for warmth. Each child carries his own rucksack, containing his mid-morning snack, or‚ Znüni-Box’ and a thermos flask of warm tea.

The day begins with the morning circle; the carers greet everyone and the children are counted together. A location for the day’s adventure is chosen, and then the group can set off. They take with them their handcart containing the materials for the day: a can of fresh water, cooking utensils, a tarpaulin, a large blanket, mats to sit on, a toolbox, the day’s lunch, a mobile phone for emergencies and a first-aid kit.
Along the way, there is much to be discovered and observed: ants making their way across our path, a little snail, a grit box home to a wasps’ nest… The children collect leaves, balance along a fallen tree trunk, chatter to one another and play along the edge of the path. Questions about plants and animals are answered in conversation or using a guidebook. There are specific stopping points along the path, where the children know to wait for the others, and rules all the children know to follow:

  • Mushrooms, berries or other plants must not be pulled up or eaten

  • Trees may only be climbed in the presence of a carer

  • No running with sticks in your hand

  • The children gather at once on hearing the agreed signal

  • No playing at the fountain (it can be cool in the forest and wet children quickly get very cold)

  • Children always remain where they can see the carers

At around 10 am the group arrives at the chosen location. The children sit down together and eat their snacks. Then it’s time to play! The children look around to see what the environment has to offer. A fallen tree becomes a ship or grocery shop, and the upturned roots a giant forest monster. The children discover animals, stroke the soft moss or the prickly needles of a fir branch, jump around in fallen leaves or go sliding on their trouser bottoms down a muddy slope. The woodland materials available encourage imaginative games with leaves, branches, stones, beech nuts, acorns, pine cones, mud, snail shells and so much more. The carers offer assistance where needed and are there whenever required, but remain a background influence, encouraging the children to be independent and act and think for themselves.

The child who brought lunch for the day can now help gather wood and light the fire. Lunch is warmed on the open fire and eaten together, sitting on mats in a circle. Troll lunch is vegetarian, although families are welcome to add meat as a child’s mid-morning snack. The families cook in turn and each brings lunch for the whole group on the morning of their turn (usually once a month).

Smaller children can snuggle down for a nap on thermal mats and sheepskin rugs, wrapped up warm in a woolen blanket. The hammock also provides a much-loved spot for a nap in the open air.

After lunch, there is time left for free play before the group gathers again for a final circle, says goodbye and sings a last song or plays a last game for the day. Then it’s off again down the path to the meeting point, where the parents await their children, rosy-cheeked, dirty and happy.

Troll, Bauen mit Naturmaterialien



Fröhlich kreischend, wie Möwen aus der Ferne, verschwanden die Trollkinder langsam im Dunkel des Waldes. Was darin geschah, konnten wir nur ahnen. Aber es schien etwas Wundervolles zu sein. Am Nachmittag tauchte eins ums andere wieder auf: bis zur Unkenntlichkeit verdreckt – und doch strahlend bis über beide Ohren.

Unsere Familie wohnt und lebt, wie die meisten Familien – in der Stadt. Tiere sehen wir selten. Wir begegnen höchstens den Hunden der Nachbarschaft oder den Katzen aus dem Quartier, die um die Häuser streunen. Und die Nachbarn unter uns besitzen drei Hamster, welche ab und zu draussen auf der Wiese grasen dürfen. Darum freut es mich um so mehr, dass unsere Tochter im Wald regelmässig Tiere antrifft und sie wahrnimmt.

Es regnet – und wie, nicht einfach so ein bisschen, sondern so richtig wie aus Kübeln. Na das kann ja heiter werden, denke ich mir wenig begeistert. Ganz anders die Kinder beim Treffpunkt. Den meisten scheint der Regen komplett egal zu sein. Eher scheint er sie anzuspornen, denn sie springen bereits vergnügt umher. Auch die Leiterin und die Praktikantinnen sind gut gelaunt und versprühen die übliche Herzlichkeit. Da beginnt sich auch meine Laune zu bessern.