Nature play for services in the city

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  Published on Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Nature play for services in the city

Library Home  >  Approaches to Early Childhood Education
  Published on Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Growing appreciation of the importance of wild play and nature-based experiences has caused a surge in the number of forest schools and early childhood services offering natural and 'risky' outdoor play.

In fact, this Thursday 1 November, is Outdoor Classroom Day, a national day to motivate and inspire educators to take the children in their service outside and facilitate outside play based learning experiences.

While, these experiences are easy to offer if you are a service with plenty of outdoor space, or easy access to authentic natural settings, such as bush or park land, they might not be as easy to offer if you are located in a city or urban area, with little or no outdoor space.

While many of these services do an amazing job of creating the appearance of nature, with light, natural materials and plants, these environments do not give children the same opportunities to climb a tree, poke around in the mud with a stick or go hunting for insects.

What can CBD based or urban early childhood services do to facilitate natural and/or wild play experiences for young children?

Organise a play date in nature

Taking the children in your service out for a day in nature may seem like a huge logistical task, but it's not. For children used to being inside a building, a trip to the local park may be sufficient. Do some research to identify a park with great trees and bushy areas, birds and plenty of diverse natural features. If it's easier for transportation, take a smaller group of children. Seek support and permission from parents, ensure you are prepared with the right equipment and visit the park in advance, so you have a plan for the excursion. Remember, you'll need to complete a risk assessment before the trip.

Join a community group

As an expansion of the excursion idea described above, you could consider joining a local government or community group for a hands-on experience in nature. CELA recently covered the story of a group of preschoolers from Bambini of Lilyfield Childcare in NSW, who joined a local bush care group to regenerate an area of land in their local area on an on-going basis. Many of the children at Bambini live in apartments and don't have easy access to gardens, which the article says made the experience even more valuable.

Bush regeneration groups are common in many areas and joining a structured program like this offers children the opportunity to watch and learn from experienced adults, as well as taking an active role in meaningful work.

Organise a wild play incursion

Providers such as Twig and Stick Children's Nature Club in South Australia, Wild Action in Victoria and Educated by Nature in Western Australia offer children the opportunity to experience a wide range of natural experiences in their own setting.

Depending on the age of children and the type of provider, this may include working with natural clay, wood whittling, handling insects and/or making mud pies.

Attend an organised event is an organisation which works with early childhood services and schools to make nature play more available to children. Nature Play currently has regional branches and websites in WA, SA, QLD and Canberra and, these branches regularly organise and run nature play events for children and training opportunities for early childhood educators. Check out the website for your state and see what's available.

This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Monday, 03 February 2020