Thank you to our guest blogger Sara for taking the time to share her advocacy of outdoor play for her children. I hope that this post inspires you as both parents and educators to advocate for more nature play for your tamariki and the tamariki your work with!
Living in a townhouse in central Auckland with 4 daughters (aged 7, 4 and 4 (twins) and 2) I ask myself how can I gift this freedom of time, space to play and holistical learning to my children?
I’d heard about Conscious Kids, an outdoor learning programme for children aged 5 to 12. They run
school holiday programmes, one day week programmes and other programmes designed specifically
Their ethos and purpose connected with me immediately and we decided to try a day of
the school holiday programme over the summer holidays.
My eldest daughter, Eden, loved it. We spent most of the summer holidays outside like many other families and I just noticed how much happier the children were and how much more connected they were to themselves, each other and us as a family unit.
As back to school fast approached and the weather continued to get better I wanted Eden to carry
on with this freedom of play. I discussed the one day programme with my husband and we agreed
this would be a fantastic option for us to try for a term to compliment her schooling.
I knew this had to be agreed by the principal so I got working on my email and asked if we could trial
one term. I am so thankful our school principal was supportive and viewed Eden’s enrolment of the
Conscious Kids one day programme as a “dual enrollment” which is recognised by the ministry.
It was important to me that this day wasn’t viewed as a “day off school” so with discussion from our
principal I wrote a “review” each week on her day at Conscious Kids and included photos so Eden’s
teachers and our principal knew what she had be doing and what she was learning.
I intentionally linked my reviews back to the curriculum so they could see the connection and be able to engage with her about her day. The feedback from both her teachers and the principal was extremely positive and it gave them all a greater insight in to the benefits of child led play outside.
Shortly after Eden started the one day programme, my curiosity and desire for more knowledge
(especially raising 4 girls) found me on the Conscious Kids training workshops. What I learnt on the
workshop resonated with me and took me back to all those feelings as a child, the connection I had
with this way of learning was profound.
Being the only parent that was not a trained teacher on the course gave me a greater understanding to the way children learn, the teaching profession itself and the challenges our teachers face. As a parent to 4 girls this information was validation of what I knew deep down. Hearing from influential speakers (inc Celia Hogan) who spoke at the workshop was invaluable and inspiring.
After completing the workshop I started volunteering on the Conscious Kids one day programme in
term 2. Having learnt the theory and then have the opportunity to see it in action well, I was in awe
of the children and what they were achieving outside.
I was able to take my two 4 year old daughters, Ivy and Lilah, with me on the programme and to see their development as the weeks progressed was like magic. The freedom of uninterrupted play gave them the time to get a spark and smoke when trying to start a fire with a magnifying glass (and believe me it took some time!); that feeling for them was incredibly powerful.
Their observation of the older children inspired them try different things without each other. This gave them confidence in themselves as individuals. These are just two of the many experiences that have enabled them to feel like they are capable.
I began sharing what they were doing on their days at Conscious Kids with their pre-school which sparked interest and discussion on opportunities where they could be doing more with the children.
Back to school and halfway through term 2 of this year I was invited by our school principal and deputy principal to meet and discuss some ideas on what they can be doing as a school to have more outdoor learning. We discussed a number of ideas and the following week I was able to take one of the Directors from Conscious Kids for a wider discussion.
The school is already on a good path for outdoor learning so being able to be part of enhancing their journey for outdoor play for children is one step closer to making a difference. We’re talking and planning for more.
I do believe as parents we have an important role to play on how we can bring awareness to everyone
around us for more time and space outside for our children.
So, here are my learning’s on my journey so far:
Absorb and take the information that’s out there. Read blogs and articles, listen to podcasts, follow people doing great things in this space and find out who the outdoor educators are in your area and in NZ. Go to workshops if you’re able to or hear influential speak. Understand what child led play based learning really is and what the adults role is. Take some of your learning’s and practice on your children, take them outside and just watch and observe.
Meet like minded people
Join a nature playgroup or Playcentre if you can, they are out there. Its inspiring to meet like-minded
parents you can share ideas with and learn from. The nature playgroup I go to once a week with my
2 year old has been great for information sharing and ideas raising my girls as well as meeting some
lovely mummy’s and daddy’s. My daughter and I look forward to it every week!
Tell your stories. Share what your children have been doing outside and what they’ve learnt. They don’t have to be doing a one day programme it could be something they love to do at home. Being able to recognise learning’s from their outdoor play and sharing it with their teachers gives a greater understanding of the child they’re teaching and what they are capable of. These stories provide connection for your child and teacher and can also provide an opening for teachers to discuss these adventures with you.
A number of schools have apps that they share information and messages on and there is usually a
space where you can share a story on your child only the teacher can view… failing that send them
an email and include photos if you can.
Have your reasons, know your “why”? There are so many benefits to outside child led play based learning and the research is all there. It can be challenging to cover it in passing to a fellow parent or teacher in the school playground who asks “why does your child do one day at Conscious Kids?” or “what does your child get out of having time outdoors”. For me personally, its giving my children uninterrupted time and space outside to do what interests them in their own time at their own pace; free from bells, set timetables and schedules. Some parents have other reasons for their child so if you know your “why” you may influence or inspire someone.
Get outside yourself
The benefits of being outside for children are the same benefits for adults – in all weather. Family
bush walks, adventures, free play, climbing trees, local regional parks – so good for your soul. Invite
your friends and their children along and set up some experiences. You could throw an outdoor
birthday party, maybe even do it in the winter or the rain – push yourself outside that comfort zone,
its great feeling once you’ve done it!!
If you live in Auckland check out Conscious Kids and see if they can help your school!