Q + A : How much does forest school cost?

Before having children, I never gave much thought as to how much an education might cost… I knew college was expensive, sure, but beyond that , it never much occurred to me that education before that would cost money.  Naive, I know.  Now that I have children of my own, I: a/ appreciate about a billion times more how much my parents invested in me to make sure I turned out alright;  and, b/ stress kind of a lot as to whether I can do the same for my own children.

Costs and tuition for forest school in  Copenhagen, Denmark.

Interestingly enough, when we moved to Denmark, I pretty much stopped worrying about that second part.  At least for a little while… All of the sudden we were in a position to give our daughter a really great experience for an amount I consider to be not very high.  Or at least, not very high relative to what I would have guessed this kind of thing to cost back home (if you’re even lucky enough to find it).

To be totally transparent, we pay about 1500 DKK per month to keep our daughter in forest school.  When we first started, that was about $300 (or about $3600 per year since the school goes year round).  Right now, with the benefit of some exchange rate fluctuations, the cost is about $230 per month (or around $2760 for the year, give or take).  My understanding, based on what was explained to me, was that these fees are assessed based on your income, so if you make more, you pay more – if you make less, you pay less.

I’m sure someone will be quick to point out that the reason school doesn’t “cost” much here is because everything else costs more.  Believe me, I’m aware just about every time I buy something.   It can seem painful in the moment.  As a quick example, the general tax on just about everything is 25% here, and don’t even get me started on income.  I don’t want to get too much into the tax component overall, as that could be a separate post entirely, but yes, obviously the tax collections help pay for the forest school, as well as any other public school here.   We pay the monthly supplement because we opted for the forest school program, but if you choose a regular preschool, you could get by without paying any at all.  At least, that was my understanding based on the conversations when we first arrived (Danes and other expats, feel free to weigh in if the case is different for you).

What’s more, if we were Danes or European citizens, we’d actually be in a position to receive an overall subsidy to help offset the cost of school or anything else related to children.  The amount ranges from about $500-800 per quarter per child depending on age of the child.  We’re not likely to see that kind of thing in the US anytime soon, though I definitely hope we’ll see more forest schools.  They’re out there, and slowly but surely, from my own cursory research, they seem to be growing.  There are a few schools in the Pacific Northwest that seem to be in line with this cost model, and then there are a few on the East Coast that seem to be getting into the $20K/year range. Yikes…But realistically, I know that in the US this can’t really be a cheap endeavor – especially once the liability patrol gets on the case.

Or can it? I’ll leave you with this little presentation by Tiny Trees – a start-up dedicated to bringing in more forest schools (20 of them!) to Seattle.  They argue that teaching in the forest school would decrease schooling costs overall – economies of scale perhaps? Now that’s a business case I like.


  1. Andrew Jay June 10, 2015

    Thank for the shout out! We are trying to make Forest Schools more affordable in the US, so great to hear about how they do it in Denmark!!

    • A Toddler in the Trees June 11, 2015

      I think what you’re doing is fantastic – and I hope you guys will end up across the US soon too!

  2. Lili June 10, 2015

    I’m a mom of a toddler and really enjoy reading your blog. So interesting to hear about Denmark. I live in Seattle and really excited for Tiny Trees and to have Forest schools here.

    • A Toddler in the Trees June 11, 2015

      Thanks so much for reading along! And so exciting about Tiny Trees right? I’m only hoping we get something similar on the east coast too one day soon (well and everywhere in between in the US 😉 !)

  3. Janet June 20, 2015

    My mother told me that when she was at school they studied only in the morning, six days a week. Each afternoon for the five weekdays they played sport, or did gymnastics for two + hours. What a pity that schools, and pre-schools now can’t incorporate some time into each day to be really active outside – a forest school element for every school.

    • A Toddler in the Trees June 22, 2015

      exactly – it doesn’t have to be complicated. i think the whole idea is that kids always need a little time outside and a little active time – they are kids, after all 😉

  4. […] She’s completely integrated, she’s successfully bilingual, and apart from our usual monthly school fee, we didn’t pay a single extra kroner for that.  Part of me does still wish that they had […]

  5. Mishka Willis January 30, 2016

    Yes! We are lucky to have a lovely forest school here in Portland. We adore it, and I think children really require all of this time outdoors.

    • A Toddler in the Trees January 30, 2016

      So lucky! I hope it takes off in other places in the US too – such a great program that Portland has!


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