I felt really inspired after watching the NaturePlay film that we hosted here in Christchurch and we had great feedback along the same lines. One of the parents who came along said the next day she removed her child from their preschool after watching the film! I thought that was a very powerful message in itself. Not just for parents to advocate for their children at the centres they attend, but it also sends a strong message to centres to make sure they have a well rounded programme that incorporates time in nature.

One challenge I hear from centres when it comes to visiting parks and reserves is that it can be really tricky with the ratios. Yes – ratios can be very tricky indeed. But they can also be a bit of a cover up for another challenge.

From my observations so far I see that ratios become more of a challenge if the teacher/teachers don’t feel confident in a natural environment with children that aren’t their own. that’s not to say the teachers don’t get out into nature in their own time or with their own children, its the addition of other peoples children that can sometimes put it in the too hard basket. There are definitely other reasons but I have observed this twice in the past week so I wanted to talk about it a little.

So how do we build the confidence to take groups into nature with other peoples children? Here are 5 areas you could start with:

  1. Good systems and processes that have been thought out in advance. This could be roles and responsibilities, session or excursion plans or parent helper expectations
  2. Risk management assessments carried out to help identify the possible risks for that site and travelling there. This includes the actions to be taken to remove or minimise the risks
  3. Visit the site a couple of times before your first session and have a thorough walk around and role play what risks exist where and how you could deal with it
  4. Take someone with some experience on your first couple of sessions to help you feel more comfortable and to build your confidence
  5. Trust in your skills that you have acquired keeping children safe in your centre

The summary of those 5 ideas is planning and support. The more planning that goes into the initial set-up of a nature programme the more comfortable people will be. The less planning there is, the less certainty and the more anxiety it can create, especially if one of the teachers is new to nature programmes.

Involving other more experiences people is a wonderful way to support someone who is wanting to develop their skills on nature excursions. Some people can cope with being thrown in the deep end but honestly I don’t think its worth it when someones confidence is on the line.

So take it slow, plan and support each other to build confidence in yourself and your programme.

Celia Hogan

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