ECEC provider bestchance shares five ways to have outdoor fun during Nature Week
As we enter the second week of Nature Play Week, Victorian based early childhood education and care (ECEC) provider ‘bestchance’ has shared five ways make to make the most of outdoor educational experiences for children, whether they be in care or at home.
There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that playing outdoors in nature can benefit children intellectually, socially, emotionally, and physically, and Nature Play Week aims to bring awareness to these benefits.
Dr Dimity Williams, a Melbourne-based GP and co-founder of the Kids in Nature Network, said, “Today’s lifestyle sees us living removed from nature, shut inside our cars, our homes or in big shopping centres.”
“In these indoor spaces our senses are restricted and our experiences blunted – this is especially sad for our children as they are missing out on the health benefits and fun offered by the outdoors.”
The following list of ideas has been compiled with the help of the Kids in Nature Network and was shared on the bestchance website.
SHAPES IN THE CLOUDS
Relax on a blanket on the grass and simply look at the sky on a cloudy day. This activity, although simple, can help children develop observation and language skills as they look for shapes in the clouds. You can prompt them by asking questions and getting them to tell stories about what they see.
This also encourages children to stop and simply be in a moment, which is a useful skill for self-awareness, emotional regulation and wellbeing.
ART WITH NATURE
Go out to a local park or nature reserve and let children collect rocks, sticks, leaves, feathers or bark; though encourage them not to pick or tear off living plants and trees or disturb any living creatures. Show your interest in what they have collected and encourage their curiosity and sensory exploration. Where did they find it? What does it smell like? What does it feel like? What does it remind them of?
You can then encourage them to make some interesting artworks with these natural items and can see some examples here.
FUN WITH MUD
Although the cleanup is certainly not fun for grownups, mud is one of those things you can find almost anywhere after a rainy day, and the little ones love it! Now that we are heading into the cooler months, it is the perfect time to have some sensory fun with mud.
Make mud snowmen, use old cake tins or muffin trays and make mud pies, draw shapes or practice writing names. You can also use a stick to inscribe letters in the dirt, or practice the alphabet. Just make sure to bring an extra pair of clothes and if it rains, a raincoat and gumboots.
This is one for the older children. Click here to download the bingo card from Nature Play Australia (or you can draw your own) and go on a walk outdoors with pencils ready to tick off as many things on the card as you can.
If you don’t find everything in one go, this can be a good incentive for a young person to develop a keen interest in the great outdoors because it is gamifying (apply typical elements of game playing to an activity) the experience.
PICNIC EYE SPY
Pack some sandwiches and a picnic blanket and get out to the local park. Play the alphabet game or eye spy (find things in nature that start with a, b, c, and so on) while sharing food or let your child explore the surroundings (within eyeshot of course). You can also invite some friends and family and make a whole afternoon out of it.
Nature Play Week runs from 14 to 25 April and includes over 40 nature experiences for children and families. These experiences are led by dozens of local organisations, First Nations experts, parents and schools across Victoria, and beyond.