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Going Bush

Going Bush

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Published by Jennifer Kable

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Published by: Jennifer Kable on Nov 20, 2012
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12/04/2012

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Going Bush

Nature Adventures with Preschoolers

Children’s stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green space.
- NWF

Risk taking should be part of childhood. We learn through the point where we feel challenged. The feeling of having a knot in your stomach is the place where you feel out of your comfort zone. - Rattler Magazine

Time
If you go down to the bush today you might see us...just hanging around. No agenda. No boxes to be ticked. Just plenty of time to wander through the landscape wherever curiosity leads us. In today’s world of standardized testing, TV, organized sports and electronic toys, children have very little time for just being kids and engaging in real self-directed free play - especially in natural settings.

"A stick is an excellent thing. It's a magic wand. It's yours to fling, to strum a fence, to draw the sun. A stick is an excellent thing if you find the perfect one." - Marilyn Singer, A Stick is an Excellent Thing

When we opened the door and stepped outside this week we discovered trees as tall as the sky, with secret child-sized cubby spaces:

We discovered that the world looks very different up on top of the rocks:

Summer days in Sydney are hot and steamy. As temperatures rise, teachers the city over look for ways their preschoolers can cool down as they play. We have a secret weapon up our sleeve. Just a hop, skip and a jump from our front gate is The Creek. A shallow volume of water flows slowly over a rock platform in the welcome shade of the gum trees. In a small group, we meander down to the creek, shed our shoes and dip our toes in. Delicious and delightful.

One of the benefits of getting out and about in nature with preschoolers is theopportunities that arise to develop and practice their physical skills. They clamber over rocks; walk on different surfaces; balance on rocks; jump puddles; tread carefully; pull themselves up; lower themselves down; learn to assess risks and to overcome physical challenges. Studies indicate that children who play regularly in nature show more advanced motor fitness, including coordination, balance and agility. And, of course, its fun. If you are interested in doing a bit more re

We all have days that are more hectic than others. Days when children are feeling hyped up, overwhelmed or out of sorts with the world and the people around them. When the wheels start falling off we can head outside with a small group of children and spend time in the neighbouring bushland. Peace descends. Children who don't usually connect - connect. Nature calms children - and adults. Preschools are busy environments. There is a lot for young brains to monitor and keep track of at the same time, requiring energy and effort. This can be stressful and result in less self-control Heading out into nature, breathing the fresh air and taking a moment to escape the hustle and bustle does wonders for mind, body and spirit. The brain can relax a bit as there is not as much coming at such a fast pace. Recent studies have shown that exposure to nature has benefits such as improved attention and a reduction in stress rates, increased self-awareness, reduction of aggression and increased overall happiness .

Taking our kids for walks in the bush isn't just fun - although it is fun. It isn't just a selling point in our brochure - although parents are attracted to this aspect of our program. Getting out and about in nature is essential to the well being of children and adults. Did you know that nature has a positive impact on our senses and our intelligence; on our physical, psychological and spiritual health; and on the bonds of family and friendship? And if that isn't reason enough for us to regularly 'go bush':

The future will belong to the nature-smart—those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more hightech we become, the more nature we need. - Richard Louv We are learning that for children to have a relationship with nature you don't need to travel far. Chris' blog also gives some wonderful ideas on how to enjoy your special place:

     

Visit it as often as you can. See how things change each time you visit. Look for things that you missed in previous visits. · Visit at different times of the day and at different times of the year. Draw a picture of your special place. Have a picnic there.

Do you have a special place in nature that you go to with the young people in your life? She observed that the children moved through different stages in their play in the forest:
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a period of physical and sensory exploration. slowing down to investigate more closely. building, drawing, collecting treasures. imaginative play scenarios.

I can see a similar development happening with the way our children play in the bush. Many are still busy with sensory and physical explorations: Veterans of the bush are moving more into using the environment as a part of their play - building structures; pretending to fish off boat rock; naming the familiar landmarks; making boats; imagining wild animals; making pretend fires:

With land art comes opportunities to learn about nature, to appreciate it's wonders, to learn respect for it and our place within.

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