PLAY: Starting a nature play club

27 March 2017

How many times have you thought about taking the kids for an outdoor play session, only to give in to the weather or time constraints and settle in to watch a movie instead? Quite a few, if you’re anything like me.

Just like going to the gym – you’re more likely to make it there if you go with a friend or two. Enter Nature Play QLD. They provide a way for families to get in touch and form Nature Play Clubs, which encourage playing and exploring in the great outdoors.

You can join an existing club by searching through their online directory, or start a new one. Some of these clubs meet every week at a local park, some offer walks for homeschooling families so they can study nature, and others head to the beach, allowing the kids to play on the sand and see what treasures they can find.

Hyahno Moser, program manager for Nature Play QLD, says: “Unstructured play in nature - Nature Play - helps our kids in so many ways, improving their physical and emotional health, their self-awareness, self-esteem, develops their resilience and creativity. Nature play is the bedrock of a great Queensland childhood!”

We all know that being outside is good for us – it helps to relieves stress and promote wellbeing. Every journey outside is different, too. And Nature Play QLD says there are many added benefits of combining with other families to enjoy these experiences:

  • Wellbeing – according to recent scientific evidence, exposure to nature is essential for physical and emotional health as well as normal child development.
  • Shared knowledge – many parents want to give their kids the gift of nature, but they don’t feel they know enough about nature to do so.
  • Motivation factor – it’s much more likely you and your family are going to show up at a park on Saturday morning if you know that there’s another family waiting for you.
  • Comfort level – the Family Nature Clubs approach can break down key barriers, including fear of strangers, since there is safety in numbers.
  • Your club is close to home – Family Nature Clubs for families can be created in any neighbourhood, whether inner city, suburban or rural.

Nature Play QLD offers a Family Nature Club Toolkit that makes it a breeze to start a club of your own, with activity checklists, advice on picking a schedule, and more. These are their steps to starting an awesome nature club:

  1. Create a plan – how often would you like to meet, what sort of activities will you do and where will you meet?
  2. Check it out – explore your chosen venue(s) and check out facilities like toilets and shade. Also pick a meeting spot.
  3. Invite people – the Nature Play QLD toolkit has a great selection of invites and flyers that you can use to hand out at school, kindy, playgroups, etc.
  4. Make it easy – give each parent a copy of the checklist from the toolkit which outlines what to bring and more.
  5. Ready, set, go! – give time for latecomers to arrive before the group heads off. Also take a pen and paper to record the contact information for any new members so they can be kept in the loop.
  6. Spread the word – ask members to invite their friends. You could even set up a Facebook page or start a blog about your adventures to encourage more people to come along.

Another Nature Play QLD resource you might like to explore before you start a nature club, or join an existing one, is the Passport to An Amazing Childhood. It has loads of great ideas for outdoor adventures and allows children (and you) to keep a record of what they’ve discovered and achieved. If they sign up to the online ‘mission control interface’ they can earn points and prizes for different activities (missions) they complete. The passport is free and you can order it online

And check out their Nature Playlists here, which include some great ideas for outdoor fun such as:

  • Visit a waterhole
  • Play under a sprinkler
  • Climb a big rock
  • Catch a crab
  • Go beach combing after a storm
  • Eat bush tucker
  • Make a kite and fly it
  • Plant something and watch it grow
  • Ride your bike on a bush trail
  • Play beach cricket

It’s a big world out there – go have fun in it! And send us some photos! Tag us on Facebook or Instagram: @kidsonthecoast OR @kidsinthecity

Read our feature on getting back to nature here.

Written by

Kids on the Coast/Kids in the City
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