It’s not your typical preschool. Desks are replaced by grass and trees take the place of iPads at the Field and Forest Nature School.

There is no list of rules posted anywhere, no set schedule and no limitations to what the four-year-olds can imagine on their natural playground.

“We want kids to think for themselves, to plan for themselves, to experiment with things first hand,” said Ron Blatz, executive director of the Discovery Children’s Centre. “We want them to smell things, to taste things, to touch things, because that’s the core of everything.”

It’s an idea that started in Europe but has since spread around the world. In Manitoba, the Discovery Children’s Centre said they’re the first to offer it, and the concept focuses on bringing peace to the normally hectic schedules of children.

“We think there is a wonderful medicinal kind of quality that nature has,” said Blatz.  “It brings peace to our lives that are pretty stressful at times.”

The pre-schoolers explore the outdoors two days a week at the centre, and spend the third day in the forest at the Living Prairie Museum. However, the instructors said there is much more to the concept than just playing outside.

“It is our vision, our hope, that because they are so young, and this is such a good time to start them at, that they will connect to nature, they will have a sense of place and a sense of belonging, and they will want to protect what they play in,” said Kim Crockett.

The school aims to create a life long love for nature in the kids so that they feel like they want to take care of the environment for future generations.