Friday, 17 August 2012

Outdoor fun in the Southern Hemisphere

Outdoor play link-up - Guest post from Australia, Niki Buchan.
I was delighted to be asked to contribute a guest blog post for Kierna who I met in person while I was Head of the Claire Warden outdoor Nature Kindergartens in Scotland. I am now based in Australia as an Educational Consultant promoting consultation with children and the concept of children also having access to wilder spaces such as bush, beach and forest. Kierna and I still share our passion for naturalistic learning through Facebook and our blogs as I am the author of the blog Precious childhood and who knows...maybe one day we can do a shared blog when we meet up again in person.
 I am delighted to have someone with such an amazing background as Niki, guest post this week whilst I still enjoy my summer break. I feel privileged to call her a friend & colleague.

Children outdoors in Australia - any different to UK & Ireland?

Are children different the world over? As the children in the northern hemisphere celebrated the summer solstice, children in the southern hemisphere celebrated the winter solstice! Children benefit from being able to revisit the same space over time where they can shape their environment, build on past experiences and really notice seasonal changes.
Last week I was a visitor in this centre in Newcastle, NSW, Australia where children from the age of 2 years have access to a range of naturalistic opportunities. They engage in a variety of self selected opportunities that offer developmentally appropriate challenge and risk. Climbing trees, caring for the chickens, digging in the sand, using the woodwork shed, having a conversation in the garden and looking for frogs in the trickle creek are all experiences within the outdoor space valued by the educators and of course the children.
Our journey into the bush offered different learning opportunities - it was the unexpected surprises wild nature offers us that most engaged them. Muddy puddles, uneven tracks, birds and bugs, seasonal changes are all opportunities that invite closer exploration and the appreciation of the wonder of being in wild nature. 
Some of the children moved through this space at a fast pace while others wanted to explore in greater depth - some children were unable to follow through on their own interests with some being held back and others being rushed to keep up. I felt that this is a disadvantage of a journey to a specific site while having a time restraint...the temptation is to rush the journey. Nature time is children’s time and as adults we need to slow down and put in place strategies to support all children.
Once the group reached their destination some children were able to continue running and scrambling around a large circular track where they were at times not visible to the adults while others started to explore the space and soon discovered a slope resulting in happy children with muddy bottoms!
To support children not really engaging in the environment, I moved to a space that interested me and started to create a small basic structure on a log. I was soon joined by a number of curious children who took over the construction of what became a fairy house complete with roof, beds, lights, flower garden and, as we were in Australia........ sunshine and pet snakes! 
After having modelled this opportunity I withdrew to observe the play and of course identify the learning that was happening - all totally unplanned but so motivating to me and the children. While searching for loose bits for their creation some children noticed interesting features on some of the trees as well as a burnt tree trunk with holes - a perfect tunnel to go through. 
It was time to leave the bush but we noticed a ‘moving’ log - perfect for a future investigation, maybe leading to a natural see-saw or a teetering bridge .....more scientific explorations for children! 
 I have come to the conclusion that children the world over are motivated by similar experiences and learn in a similar way and that it is irrelevant what curriculum the adults create ....... children choose to keep playing and learning the way children always have! Thank goodness!

PS. I hope the Educators remembered that the children were expecting a miniature thank you letter from the fairies?
My favourite post from the last link up was from Kaisa over at Living Life and Loving It
I love to see children being allowed to enjoy being outside in all weathers & her photos of her family in the rain are gorgeous. 
How did your kids play outdoors this week?

  • Any kind of children's outdoor play-related posts are welcome!

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  1. Our of interest - what was the preschool in Newcastle?

    1. I have passed you comment onto Niki & she will get back to when she has spoken to the centre's director.

  2. I am the Director of the preschool Niki posted about, a beautiful community based service - Woodrising Community Preschool. We loved hving Niki spend time in our service and come on a bushwalk with us! If you want to know more about our service you can email me at -

    1. Thanks so much for this Nicole & for allowing the photos from this bushwalk to appear on my blog, Kierna

    2. It is lovely to see children given the opportunity to explore nature. Nicole you and your children are blessed to be able to work and play in a beautiful environment.

  3. Dear Kierna,
    thank you for your kind words and an invitation to share my post here with you! All the best, Vera

  4. Wow, thanks again for you kind comments on Make and Play. I used to have a "follow the blog" gadget, but it disapeared from my blog and I can't fix it :(

    1. Hi Vera, sorry I wasn't alerted to your first comment for some reason, I think the follow by email is a better option anyway! Now I will never miss any of your future great posts, thanks again for joining in the outdoor fun, Kierna