19/11/2020 By Angela Wright - Program Manager - Nature Play QLD

Regional Loose Parts Play Tour Oct-Nov 2020 – Our Journey

Through a Heart Foundation Active Australia Innovation Grant, the partnership of Nature Play QLD, BUSHkids and The Outsiders: Play Advocates was born. We headed out on tour to parts of regional Queensland to spread the word, highlight the benefits and share experiences about playwork and loose parts play.

Over 15 days, we were lucky enough to visit 26 amazing businesses including schools, early learning centres, OSHC, Playgroups, Home Schools, Family Day Cares, Health Services and Communities across 17 towns. Our regional tour became an opportunity to give recognition to the inspiring and innovative learning spaces we were fortunate to visit and also to learn from each other as well as share experiences and knowledge.

From small informal group gatherings to facilitated formal workshop presentations, people came together to deepen their knowledge and enrich their educational practice. The networking opportunities between educators wad deep and passionate as they came together from across the community to share and build knowledge.

The first tour took the team to the Darling Downs and the South Burnett towns of Kingaroy and Murgon. Many of the educators had already watched the three Loose Parts Play webinars held in September and delivered by The Outsiders and were ready to play with the collection of loose parts they had gathered.

The second week had the team out to Central Queensland and the Wide Bay Burnett. Meeting with the Community supporting the Connect 4 Children Program in Glenmore Rockhampton produced many productive ideas and solutions. The session also involved a drive around the neighbourhood to find all the places where the local children could nature play – and there were plenty of them!

Heading west, the group were inspired by the passion and tenacity of educators in Gracemere, Emerald, Gladstone and Alloway. All centres were already making amazing progress with loose parts play and understanding the importance of playwork. Some centres had real challenges with their spaces and others with the number of traumatised children they were having to care for, this was a big learning curve for us and has set the wheels in motion for future thinking. It was wonderful to see the Alloway students enjoying loose parts play at their school for the first time.

Then we headed inside – not like us! BUSHkids organised an event at the CQU where 20 educators and community workers were given a presentation on the benefits and joy of playwork and loose parts play. Even an ABC journalist attended for a short while. We had some amazing discussions!

Tour three, on the Sunshine Coast, was full of surprises and exceptional services. The group were inspired by practices such as free-range movement of children around all the rooms and outside spaces, the amount of free play and the level of understanding about playwork. The bush play space at Monkland State School was full of potential and rich play affordance.

The visit to Milford Lodge proved to be an absolute delight. Its mantra is to be a home away from home and it truly is. The centre, set out like a village, is full of amazing rooms, activities and even a café style lunch room. It was wonderful to see children and toddlers roaming and playing all around the village.

The tour finished in the remarkable community of Peachester. Families arrived at Peachester Park with picnic blankets and while their children played through the park the parents listened to the final presentation of the tour. A number of dignitaries also attended and enjoyed the message of playwork and loose parts play. The tour finished with a picnic and children playing – the perfect end to our tour!

Nature Play QLD will continue to support educators across QLD, with ongoing support, mentoring, resources, professional development and hopefully another Regional Tour in the near future.