I think it’s a huge part of my role as a forest school leader is to support families to understand how diverse and fabulous this environment is. People are coming to me because they want to reconnect with nature, that’s a really innate part of who they feel that they want to be or they want their children to be. I think there’s all this research that shows that technology can be harmful for children and I think that people want to come back to basics and connect with what’s around them. We love it, it gives the kids a chance to play outside on actual trees and rocks and things rather than the generic play equipment that we have at most of the parks. Nature is very good for us. It’s been very heavily researched in both health and wellness areas as well as cognition and attention and just taking that break and that time out and being with nature seems to really improve a lot of wellbeing measures across the board. So I actually spend a lot of time thinking about what I’m going to put in my environment. I’m really quite purposeful because I want it to be engaging their senses or supporting their learning while we’re here. I always have some sensory play. So I always have a bush kitchen, I have a massive garden at home so I always have lemons and limes and herbs and water and things that children can play with them and learn from. I’ve always got some sensory dough that’s really nice, today we’ve got lemon and lime dough. I’ve always got binoculars, magnifying glasses, torches. I’ve got a little feature on toads – the metamorphosis cycle from a tadpole to a frog or to a toad that we found in the creek. I have identification charts in the creek, if they find a particular water creature they can find out what it is. I’ve got some nature painting here because it’s really important to foster that creativity, I’ve also got a couple of ropes courses with carabiners. So we’re really lucky this is a beautiful play space that we can use which is very shaded so it’s got these all little diverse little pockets. This is our third or fourth time. I think when Hugo first started he was quite scared of the bush but now he just roams, happy to roam around, loves the creek. That’s his favourite part. Engaging with nature is such a natural thing to do and I think we have removed ourselves from the perceived risks that people say yes we have snakes yes we have spiders yes we have ticks, we have all of the stuff in our environment but there’s ways to safely play, there’s ways you can guide children and families to play and give them parameters, to children to self-assess their risk. So we’ve got some really good research from Europe, from the forest kindies over there and we’ve even looked at the results of those children compared to the results of say a more Western American approach where kids are sat on their backside from age three and four and taught ABCs. So the forest kindy approach actually has the kids just going out into the wilderness doing their own thing and the results are quite outstanding. By the time they’re seven or eight there’s absolutely no difference academically whatsoever but the kids who’ve been to the forest kindies have better psychological resilience, better social skills all that sort of stuff that we’re probably missing out on in the Western world at the moment. There’s a growing movement of us as early childhood educators who know how important it is to be out into nature as often as possible and I think that’s where my role comes in is I am fostering a way for parents to do that easily. A sheep or two and a kangaroo a clothesline out the back. It’s our first time here today. I think it’s a good activity sort of set up like amongst nature. I think that’s the biggest benefit you know. Our lifestyle is becoming a bit more sedentary so this is really good to get the kids used to being outdoors or in nature or getting dirty from a young age. Veranda out the front and an old rocking chair.

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