We love natural play spaces
" The earth is our home. We all live here; everyone you've ever known, every plant or animal you've ever seen, has lived here. As adults, we have been around the block and have learned some of what to expect from mother earth. We know the promise of spring. But young children discover the world each time they step outside. Young children are the greatest of all explorers. Finding themselves suddenly alive on a planet in space, they begin to explore all its qualities. Everything is new. All children want to know how they fit into the whole and what the whole actually is.
And Young children are great scientists. As they wonder and create, they are asking the same questions that scientists ask : "Why do things live the way they do?" "Why do they grow the way they do?" What is the nature of the universe?"
Rusty Keeler 2014
Green Beginnings sees natural play spaces as an important part of enriching and supporting children's knowledge building, relationships and well-being. A natural play space is so good for the soul.
Numerous studies of outdoor experiences have shown that natural outdoor environments have an impact on humans…they reduce stress and create a feeling of well-being. Early childhood is often described as a unique and critical time for connecting with nature. Natural play spaces offer opportunities for children to explore, investigate, imagine, discover, learn, and interact with nature, insects and animals and other children.
Nature makes children wonder and wondering is a powerful tool for lifelong learning.
With the support of sensitive and experienced Early Childhood Professionals these opportunities and interactions with nature can provide rich, complex learning for children.
The great news for our children is that our world seems to be embracing this natural shift more and more and our communities are seeing this and creating spaces and places that encourage us to get outside and play with neighbours. How awesome is this! https://www.natureplayqld.org.au/
Advocates of nature play and researchers in this field such as RIchard Louv, Jennifer Ward, Claire Warden, Sue Elliot and Julie Davis are all paving the way for change.
Jennifer Ward writes in her book “I love Dirt”, that there is nothing more joyful and inspiring to watch than children discovering the world around them- whether they are collecting fallen leaves, rolling down grassy hills, or playing in the waves at the beach. Every day there are new discoveries to be made: a caterpillar in a tree; dirt that has turned into mud; sprouting sunflowers; visiting birds. These all provide a valuable focus for children's innate curiosity.
Sue Elliott and Rusty Keeler in their books "The Outdoor Playspace Naturally" and "Natural Playscapes" write about the senatorial elements to children play in the early years. They tell us that children judge nature by how they can interact with it rather than by how it looks. Manufactured equipment and all the indoor instructional materials produced by the best educators in the world can't substitute how it feels to a child to build a trench in the sand or squish mud between their toes. To smell the mint in the vegetable garden or the reminders of Sunday roasts as they ride their tricycle past the rosemary bushes along the bike track are so important to the developing child .
Vegetative rooms, bushy cubbies, dens or enclosed spaces have been shown to promote more sustained, complex and creative play than purpose built or adult built cubbies. The sensory moment when a child's attention is captured by the sparkle of sunlight through leaves, the sight of butterflies or a colony of ants, or the infinite space in an iris flower is precious and can't be replicated. Seeing that wide eyed wonder in our children is such a gift.
Education for sustainability needs to be a 'new vision of education that seeks to empower people of all ages to assume responsibility for creating a sustainable future' (World Summit on Sustainability 2002).
Nature and its impact on children
Children with nature nearby their homes are more resistant to stress; have lower incidence of behavioural disorders, anxiety, and depression; and have a higher measure of self-worth.
The greater the amount of nature exposure, the greater the benefits (Wells &Evans, 2003).
Spending time in nature has been shown to reduce stress and benefit treatment of numerous health conditions (Kahn, 1999).
Symptoms of children with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) are relieved after contact with nature. The greener the setting, the more the relief. (Taylor et al.,2001).
Children with views of and contact with nature score higher on tests of concentration and self-discipline. The greener, the better the scores (Wells, 2000;Grahn et al., 1997; Taylor et al., 2002).
Children who play regularly in natural environments show more advanced motor fitness, including coordination, balance and agility, and they are sick less often (Grahn et al., 1997; Fjortoft & Sageie, 2001).
When children play in natural environments, their play is more diverse. There is a higher prevalence of imaginative and creative play that fosters language and collaborative skills (Moore & Wong, 1997; Taylor et al., 1998; Fjortoft, 2000).
Exposure to natural environments improves children's cognitive development by increasing their awareness, reasoning, and observational skills (Pyle, 2002).
Play in a diverse natural environment reduces or eliminates bullying (Malone & Tranter, 2003).
Nature helps children develop powers of observation and creativity, as well as a sense of peace and being at one with the world (Crain, 2001).
Early experiences with the natural world have been positively linked with the development of imagination and the sense of wonder (Cobb, 1977; Louv, 1991).
Wonder is an important motivator for lifelong learning (Wilson, 1997)
Children who play in nature have more positive feelings about each other (Moore, 1996)
Natural environments stimulate social interaction between children (Moore, 1986; Bixler et al., 2002)
Play in outdoor environments stimulates all aspects of child development more readily than indoor environments (Moore & Wong, 1997).
An affinity to and love of nature, along with a positive environmental ethic, grow out of regular contact with and play in the natural world during early childhood (Chawla, 1988; Wilson, 1993; Sobel, 1996, 2002 & 2004; Wilson, 1997; Kahn, 1999; Kals et al., 1999; Moore & Cosco, 2000; Bixler et al.,2002; Kals & Ittner, 2003; Schultz et al., 2004)
Rain, glorious rain
Children at Green Beginnings play in all types of weather. There is nothing they love more than jumping in muddy puddles and dancing in the rain.
You will hear us say often...
"There is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing"
A natural part of children's physical play involves engaging in play that is challenging, a bit scary and somewhat risky.
Risky play is children's way of getting to know their world and to find out what is safe and not safe . Children's risky play actually has important developmental benefits such as teaching children to self assess risk as well as psychological, physical/motor, perceptual, and social development, and we embrace every part of it.
As children grow, so too does their relationship with their backyard, their local park, the bushland at the edge of town, their region, their country, their world. At each stage of this growth, the interplay between children and nature offers new opportunities to explore and relate, and the consequent deepening of the friendship between the child and the earth.
We regularly visit the Botanic Gardens in Buderim.