‘Give children time & space for unhurried unstructured free play outdoors in natural spaces of wonder and possibility that ignite curiosity, creativity & imagination and nurture the mind, body and spirit.’
|Why Nature Play?
Do you remember your favourite childhood place in nature? Where was it? How did you find it? How did you feel when you were there?
Over the past 30 years, we have moved indoors and screen spaces have replaced green places. Use of television, computers, the internet and smartphones, increased parental fear, poor urban planning and more highly structured play and supervision keep kids from playing outside.
This change in the experience of and exposure to nature has led to a gradual distancing between our kids and the natural world and has profound implications for the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health of future generations – and for the health of nature itself.
A growing body of evidence suggests that, from backyards to streets, parks and gardens, from the beach to the bush, kids do better outside!
Nature play is a term used to describe the creation of simple play opportunities in the natural environment. Nature play encourages kids and parents to see the natural environment as a place to enjoy, play, imagine, relax and explore.
At Chelsea Kindergarten, nature play is part of our everyday programmes.
Nature play has so many health and well being benefits for young children as well as adults. Some of these include:
- A deeper connection to and respect for their environment and the natural world
- Improved self- regulation skills
- Improved gross motor skills and coordination
- Increased ability to assess and manage risk
- A deeper understanding of what it means when we talk about ‘Connection to Country’
- An improved sense of well being that extends beyond times spent in nature
- The promotion of self-esteem, social skills and confidence
- A reduction in stress which leads to success in learning
- Happier, calmer children – “children can’t be bouncing off the walls when there are no walls!”
We recognise the importance in our modern world of providing opportunities for children to spend time in nature, unhurried and without expectations being placed on them, to connect with nature and the natural world. Children can explore, investigate, take risks, learn, actively engage with their surroundings, rest and relax in a variety of natural settings both at kindergarten and in our local community.
Some of these community settings have included – local parklands, Chelsea beach, the Earth Carers Community Garden, as well as incursion and excursion opportunities linked to the natural world such as the Cranbourne Botanic Gardens and Rockpool Discovery shows.
We also value the many opportunities at kindergarten to provide children with nature play opportunities. Through the resources provided and experiences offered, we strive to incorporate nature in a variety of ways at kindergarten. Examples include water, sand, mud and clay activities, the use of stones, logs, plants, timber slices, wool and felt as provocations in play settings and ensuring that we spend plenty of time outdoors throughout the year, in all seasons, observing and noticing the changes in our environment.
SOMETIMES THIS GETS MESSY!
CHILDREN MAY GET WET, DIRTY, AND HAVE A REALLY GOOD TIME!!
Spare clothes, water proof jackets and gumboots, particularly in cooler weather are required.
We understand that there are challenges at times and that initially, some children take time to accept the slower pace and unstructured opportunities that nature play may present. Some of the challenges include – cold weather, rain, heat, dropping off and picking up children at other sites, children’s attitudes towards unstructured play and their ability to find inspiration and joy in nature, and on some day even staff energy levels and enthusiasm. However, we understand the immense benefits and joy that this programme will being children as well as adults and we value and appreciate the commitment shown by our families so that we can offer this type of experience at Chelsea Kindergarten.
The types of activities offered may include – yoga in the park, exploring for mini-beasts, story telling under a shady tree, art in the park, exploring our bay, climbing trees, drawing and writing in the sand, imaginative play with natural resources, sensory walks, learning about what it means when we sing our ‘Acknowledgement to Country’ and simply just ‘being’ at times.
The commitment of families to enable us to offer this programme involves:
- off site drop off and/or pick up at times,
- signing and returning permission forms by their due date,
- ensuring that their child has adequate and appropriate food, clothing and water bottle for the outings,
- ensuring that they are signed up to class Dojo to receive information and reminders about nature play outings.
- Most importantly, we often require parent helpers to come along on our outings to ensure the safety and supervision of children as well as to support staff in the delivery of the programme.
We have a range of policies that guide our planning of outings and the participation of all children and adults involved. Specifically, we have a bush kinder policy booklet with policies that specifically address circumstances such as snakes, dogs, extreme weather etc.