Nature play is at the heart of so much that we do at Centennial Parklands. Our nature play expert Sam Crosby has tips to encourage curiosity, storytelling, and physicality in your kids (and yourself!).
Read part one of this story series to learn more about how to encourage joy and support freedom through play.
Inspire a sense of awe and wonder
We all know that our kids look up to the adults in their lives. This gives us a great opportunity to engage our children with the natural world through carefully tuned actions and words.
Ways to encourage this include asking great questions, (rather than giving all of the answers) and displaying interest in what your children are showing you. Be curious about the natural world around you – join your children in studying your backyard birds and their bird song, talk about the seasonal ecological changes in your local area, identify and name plant species, and make nature a part of your everyday conversation.
Show an interest with carefully guided questions, and your children’s interest and curiosity will follow.
People of all ages make sense of their world through not only their lived experiences but also through reflecting on those lived experiences. This is where keeping an open mind and listening to children’s stories of their nature play is important.
Having their stories listened to helps children deepen their nature experience. Knowing that their interests and thoughts are valued will keep them wanting to come back for more and gives you both more to share around the dinner table now and into their older years.
Instruct, don't destruct
How many times a day do you find yourself saying “be careful”? This tip may sound easy, but for many parents it is difficult to watch their children take risks without saying this classic phrase.
In nature play education we use a vocabulary of instruction rather than fear to take the anxiety out of challenging situations. Statements such as “be careful”, “watch out”, and “don’t fall” are usually unhelpful and can create a greater risk. Instead, break physical activity down into chunks of simple instruction, describe exactly what action the children need to take next, so that they can understand and learn exactly what it is they need to do with their bodies.
Nature play experts at Centennial Parklands
Nature play underpins a whole range of programs and activities at Centennial Parklands for students, educators, and families – including the award-winning Ian Potter Children’s WILD PLAY Garden.
Sam Crosby is the author of this article and an innovative and well-respected nature play educator based at Centennial Parklands.
Sam will be speaking at the inaugural Nature Play Australia Childhood Summit 2019. Her workshop Effective nature mentoring for parents, guardians, and educators will invite discussion and offer hands-on guidance for adults in this field.
Read part one of Sam's top tips for nature-friendly families, or find out more about Centennial Parkland's next Nature Play for Families event.