Essentially a group of children who became stranded at a scout camp when World War III began, the Children of the Forest never really got a chance to grow up. Raised by their camp master, whom they have come to call "Teacher", these people have adapted to survive in the wilderness against all threats. Be that the changing weather, fierce creatures, bandit attacks, or unwelcome guests.
They formed a tribe in post-apocalyptic Kazakhstan, created sometime after 2013. Children of the Forest wear primitive clothes made from items found in nature, similarly to the nomadic tribes of the past. Faces of cult members are hidden behind the skulls of mutants to instill fear in the hearts of their enemies. As hinted at by their name, they tend to live in woodlands and other areas that remained clear far from the urbanized centers of humanity's former glory now poisoned by radiation.
The Children of the Forest has a jurisdiction system called The Forest Court that is mostly used to judge outsiders and trespassers to determine whether they are hostile or not. If they are not hostile, they are allowed to pass through the territory peacefully while the hostile ones are either imprisoned or executed.
As the attacks of bandits intensify overtime, resulting in a lot of members to perish, the Children of the Forest are divided into two subgroups with conflicting views of their teacher’s lessons: the Pioneers and the Pirates. While the Pioneers prefer to lead a peaceful and isolated lifestyle and only kill bandits while letting peaceful trespassers to pass through, while Pirates actively attack strangers and engage in looting as well as ignoring the Forest Court multiple times. Artyom has an opportunity to talk to some of these people, making moral decisions along the way according to what the player decides.
When Artyom and Alyosha's railcar is derailed as they are scouting the Valley, they are both rescued by the Children. While Artyom is secretly rescued by Olga, Alyosha is taken captive by the Pioneers and is set to stand trial, though he later manages to escape. Throughout the level, Artyom will be forced to pass through several camps occupied by the Children. Choosing a stealthy approach and only knocking them out will earn positive moral points. After Artyom's fight with the bear, Olga and a few other Children will confront Artyom and Alyosha. If Artyom showed restraint in dealing with the Children, they will simply see the pair off, while Alyosha warns Olga that the dam is about to burst and to evacuate the Valley with the rest of the Children. If Artyom was merciless, however, Olga and the Childen will be much more hostile, and will banish Artyom and Alyosha from the Valley. They will also shoot at the pair as they're ziplining away, resulting in Alyosha getting shot with an arrow.
If Artyom and the Children parted ways on friendly terms, bandit radio chatter can later be heard aboard the Aurora that confirms the Children did, in fact, evacuate the Valley.
- The Children of the Forest resemble the Lost Boys from Peter Pan, and were possibly inspired by them.
- The Children of the Forest is the only faction in Metro Exodus whose leader is named, but never shown.