There’s nothing like spending time in nature to lift your mood and help you connect to your kids. Our NSM Discoverer Katey Elizabeth took her son to the Nature Play Space at the Ku-ring-gai Wildflower Garden and got up close and personal to some cool creatures (and took a dip in a mud pit!)
Stepping outside, the sun is shining and there’s a warm breeze brushing by as my sweet boy and I wander down the bush path to the Nature Play Space at the Ku-ring-gai Wildflower Garden. It’s a picture-perfect day for an outdoor activity, and we’re on our way to experience a ‘Nippers in Nature’ session for kids aged 3-5 years.
And I’ll say from the start, I’m a mum to four adventurous boys and I’m a preschool teacher, so I’m speaking as a parent and an educator when I say I absolutely loved the morning we had!
We all know by now that that the benefits of playtime in nature are enormous, which is why Nippers in Nature is such a great concept. The program, designed for kids 3-5 and their carers, features opportunities for unstructured play using natural items large and small, from branches and mud down to gumnuts and seashells. The skilled rangers facilitate new and different ways of being creative and having adventures out in the bush, alongside group experiences such as storytelling, going on bush adventures together, campfires (in the cooler months) and craft using natural materials.
On arrival we were greeted warmly by our program leaders Ranger Sarah and Ranger Kate, and we were offered a cuppa as we listened to an explanation about the different play stations on offer.
Some of our experiences included:
Tadpole catching: We explored a naturally formed pond in a large bush rock that was home to tadpoles. The children were offered little nets to try to catch the tadpoles and place them in a bucket. The rangers gently talked with the children about hat a tadpole was, how they change and how to handle them.
The mud pit: Thanks to the recent rains, the pit was more like a mud wading pool – and it was fabulous! The children took off their shoes and socks if they wanted to and used various utensils to make mud soup and all sorts of other things. After having a play in the mud, the children were shown how to use a native grass to weave through the fence (great for hand eye coordination).
Animal encounter and storytime: The children gathered together and we sat on the round mat for a quiet moment and a snack. Ranger Sarah told us a Dreamtime story about how the blue tongued lizard got its blue tongue and scaly skin. When the story was over we were greeted by Bluey, the blue tongued lizard! The children were able to have a look at him and touch him. The learning extended from the story to the next activity, which was to make a habitat for Bluey. The children were given a box filled with gorgeous natural and found materials. Bluey loved his new home!
Bushwalking and craft: We followed Ranger Sarah through the bush, looking at all the sights along the way and observing different features of the landscape, spotting tadpoles in the rainy puddles, looking at different plants, and pointing out interesting rocks, sticks, birds and bugs! We walked back to the Nature Play Space there the children were shown how to use clay. They created snails and snakes and used gumnuts as eyes, enjoying free-flowing craft that helped calm and centre them.
The session went for an hour and a half- a perfect length of time for 3-5 year olds. It was unstructured, play-based learning and it was just wonderful.
Nippers in Nature is for carers too! The rangers advise and demonstrate how to encourage child-led play and risk-taking:
- Challenge and risk in the outdoor environment
- What to say instead of “be careful!”
- Encouraging creativity and problem-solving in independent play
- Supervising and interacting in playtime without “helicoptering”
Come dressed for rugged outdoor play: closed shoes, hats and sunscreen, and a raincoat if it’s wet
Bring a snack and drink bottle for your child for the break – ideally in a backpack they can carry
You can also bring your Keep Cup for your complimentary Fair Trade tea or coffee every week
The Essential Details
- What: Nippers in Nature, nature-based play program for kids aged 3-5 and carers
- Where: Ku-ring-gai Wildflower Garden
- When: From 10-11.30am Monday mornings, in terms of 5 weeks. It’s best to book for a full term
- Cost: Full term bookings – $65 per child and $40 per adult, single sessions – $13.50 per child and $8.50 per adult
- More information: Nippers in Nature
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