As we think back to our childhoods, many of us can remember our favourite memories taking place outdoors in our backyard, the neighbours backyard or down the road. We used what was around us to create our own play spaces in which we would spend hours in imaginative play, cubbies and treehouses, homes and bases, shops and cafes.
Next time you ponder where to go and what to do on the weekend with the family, consider a “visit to the backyard”. There is no need to bring out all the toys, children can resource their own play and learning from things found in nature. Sometimes all they need is time to explore the outdoor environment and they come up with their own ideas.
The fallen leaves on the ground become pasta that is mixed with some mud that becomes delicious bolognaise sauce, a sprinkling of seed pods for cheese and hey presto the backyard garden has turned into a 5-star restaurant.
An old sheet or two and a few pegs soon joins the barbecue tables and chairs to make a “secret” hiding spot, a “tent” or a “bear cave”. It’s inexpensive and gives hours of endless fun. You will soon see the teddies and dolls leave the house to join in the fun in their cubbies.
Building a cubby is the ultimate way to recycle and upcycle, bringing together a collection of items to build a structure. Before you place the next lot of pruned branches from your backyard tree or place the palm fronds in the green bin, upcycle it with the kids. Leave a pile and let the kids construct a shelter of their very own!
The pebbles in the garden become money in the “shop” and you might recognize the items for sale, as they have collected and drawn together anything about in the backyard, sometimes even the cat and the dog!
The outdoors can be transformed into the dragons den, the fairy wonderland, or the traditional “mums and dads” houses. This imaginative play is how children explore and make sense of their world, building an understanding of roles people play, relationships and how community works.
Every child is excited by a treasure hunt, and there are always many things to find in the backyard. Whether it’s the camouflaged grasshoppers on the leaves, the ants making a home, the birds in the tree, the tiny seed pods or blossoming flowers. Children love a goal, something to search for. Add some paper and pencil and they can draw and write all that they found. If you have a set of binoculars or a magnifying glass this will add extra excitement to the adventure.
Being outdoors allows children to receive the very important Vitamin N, N for nature. It is amazing what it does for our wellbeing. Research has shown the clear links of getting outdoors in nature and the positive benefits it has on our mental health. Nature reduces stress, improves mood and boosts feelings of happiness and wellbeing.
So let’s make our next family adventure outdoors in our very own backyard or local community.
Nature Explorers is an educational program delivered completely outdoors, even in the rain we don our wet weather gear and head outside for an adventure. There is no need for us to take “toys” as nature provides a diverse range of play opportunities, ready and waiting for us to explore with all of our senses.
Through the natural materials, children are able to create art pieces, construct shelters and play structures, engage socially in pretend play, investigate and explore science and maths concepts and build their physical skills. When children use play materials from nature they are inventive thinkers and problem solvers, resourceful and learn sustainable practices.
As children experience the wonder of our Mother Earth and all that it offers it builds their nurturing capabilities. They develop a love of nature and with this grows a deep appreciation and respect for all things livings in the environment.
Nature Explorers offers nature play sessions to children and families, igniting learning in and with nature natureexplorers.com.au