Monday, November 28, 2016

Bringing Adventure Back into PLAY

Realising the Value of PLAY Through Nature Experiences

The environment I most often witness PLAY, real play, play that is not adult directed, play where resources are open ended and where children are given time and in Wild Nature! Wild nature are spaces that have not been tidied up, where leaves have not been blown away, where sticks and stones are left on the ground, where ponds and streams are not covered or fenced and where children can immerse themselves in what the environment offers.

Such environments are often a far cry from the traditional child care environment designed by adults. Adults and children often view ideal play spaces through different lenses.

Many adults value aesthetic beauty, children's physical safety, colourful adult designed resources preferably with an obvious academic value.

Children value an environment where they have the freedom and 'safety' to play, where they can change the space and come back to their games later, where there is stuff to do stuff with, where they can take risks and challenge themselves.

This mismatch in expectations of the ideal play space often leads to frustration and a reduction in opportunities for the true joy and opportunities of play.

Having spent many years supporting educators in developing forest, creek, beach or bush programmes for their children internationally, I have seen the benefits for children and adults.

Children who initially come into the bush and ask "but where are the toys?" very quickly develop the imagination and creativity to use what they find.

Adults initially fearful of children's physical injuries in what is perceived a risky space soon realise the value of 'learning injuries' as children deal with the scrapes and scratches that are or should be part of a rich childhood.

Adults realise that they do not need to direct or structure children's play as children are happily engaged in the changing awe and wonder nature provides.

 To my delight, I have found that these experiences in wild nature eventually transfer back into the fenced childcare space.

Natural materials are no longer removed and are in fact brought in by educators and parents.

Open ended man made resources such as planks of wood, pipes, fabrics, cable reels are valued and introduced.

Adults become less concerned about every day childhood injuries and focus more on the benefits of children managing their own risk and challenge and the possible learning injuries that might occur.

Adults feel less inclined to structure children's time as children manage their own time very effectively.

Children have developed the imagination to be creative with the open ended materials available.

Children's attention span increases as they engage for long periods.

Children become competent risk assessors and cope with mistakes and accidents with increased resilience.

Most important is that the well-being levels of both adults and children increases.

Children accessing wild nature is an ideal which may not be achievable on a daily basis BUT we can offer similar valuable experiences by transferring the philosophy of nature-based practice to the centre so that centre-based practice aligns with many of the rich opportunities naturally offered in wild nature.

Thank you to all these awesome Australian Centres who provide such rich opportunities for their children and who have agreed to be part of my new book to be published in 2017. 

Niki Buchan is an International Educational Consultant and Nature Pedagogue with Natural Learning Early Childhood Consultancy in Australia.

She works internationally as a conference keynote speaker, nature pedagogue, nature kindergarten facilitator, naturalistic playground advisor, international study visit facilitator, mentor, author as well as delivering a large range of professional learning opportunities on all aspects of early childhood education and care. She has developed a reputation as a strong advocate for children’s right to a high quality childhood, including having regular access to nature, play and having their voices heard. She is considered a leading voice in promoting Nature-based pedagogy and is the author of the Australian book “Children in Wild Nature”  and UK book “A Practical Approach to Nature- Based Practice”  as well as co-authoring books. 

Natural Learning website, Facebook site
Facebook site for Nature-based Pedagogy International

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