The first stage of our Nature Play area in the Kurrajong courtyard is now complete and the students have explored the area with eagerness and excitement. Staff worked with the students to determine risks and benefits of the new space to identify the learning opportunities and to ensure the children understood the potential risks and consequences. The Student Action Team will continue to have input for resolutions and guidelines through continual discussions, along with documentation of risks and resources by staff. Safety is a priority with the changes to the environment and guidelines to follow have been communicated with the children. The Nature Play space is open in the morning before school begins; however, parents will need to supervise as there are no staff members on duty at this time. After school the area is closed to ensure staff have the opportunity to tidy and care for the environment. Discussing these guidelines with your child at home will be helpful to ensure a consistent message is being received:
- Walking only in courtyard
- Leave plants to grow
- Potion area- only plants put in the area to be used
- Sand stays in sandpit and quarry sand stays in quarry
- Digging only in sandpit and quarry- not in garden beds
- Quarry tools are for quarry only
- Wheelbarrows are parked empty at end of the day
While safety is important with outdoor discovery, we also encourage the children to learn to manage their play by problem-solving and risk-taking as they connect with nature. Nature Play SA General Manager Jason Tyndall suggests that avoiding risks can limit a child’s development as in general children are not pushing boundaries and consequently, we are seeing a rise in sensory integration issues and a decline in rich play experiences. If we consider childhoods of the past, children were allowed to roam and use their imagination to create by building cubby houses, climbing trees and playing in puddles. These experiences helped children to create a sense of freedom, flexibility and independence to self-regulate and gain important life skills. The challenge now is to find ways to deliver more freedom to enable the children opportunities to learn and develop to their potential. Our nature-based outdoor learning environment will provide opportunities for risk and failures to be viewed as positive learning experiences and for the children to take responsibility for their actions.
What can you do to encourage children into nature?
Below are some ideas to support play in the outdoors.
Introduce diverse physical play opportunities: climb trees, balance on logs or climb rope structures.
Create opportunities for imaginative play: explore creeks, introduce natural elements such as sticks, seed pods and leaves.
Spend time outside together: have a picnic, do some gardening.
Give them a chance to build: provide materials for cubby building such as sticks, rope etc.
Give children permission to be messy: introduce dirt, water, pots, pans, flowers etc.
Inspire minds to be curious: search for bugs under logs, rocks and on leaves, plant seedlings and watch them grow.
Reduce your screen time and spend more time outdoors.
Mansfield, A. (2018/2019). Child's play- should we prescribe freedom? University of South Australia Enterprise Magazine, (2), pp.29-33.
Acting Head of Kurrajong