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Red Hill children take play to nature

Goodstart centres

It might be a growing international movement, but for Goodstart Red Hill, nature play walks are a regular and much anticipated occurrence as part of the experience offered to children at the centre.
The early learning centre has just relaunched their popular Nature Walk Program for their toddlers, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classes – perfect timing to coincide with Nature Play Week celebrated across the country from April 12-23.
Centre director Renee Mitchell said venturing outside to their local ‘Magical Forest’ was the perfect opportunity for children to explore, discover and connect with nature.
“When we first began our nature play program back in 2014, our vision was fairly simple. We wanted to provide children with regular opportunities to connect with nature, and develop a sense of wonder, natural curiosity and respect for the environment around them,” Ms Mitchell said.
“Since then, our Nature Walk Program has evolved and become one of the most popular activities offered as part of our curriculum. Feedback from families has been overwhelmingly positive and children have grown leaps and bounds from their experiences exploring nature in small groups with their classmates.
“Every week they look forward to listening, looking, hearing and touching the world around us as they test their climbing skills, observe and interact with nature, and have fun with creative play.
“It’s truly a wonderful experience for everyone involved including our educators who are there to safely guide and encourage children to indulge their natural curiosity every step of the way.”
Dressed in their gumboots, sunsmart hats, long pants with sunscreen and insect repellent applied, each week children walk in small groups (according to their age) a short distance to their local bush reserve. Children spend an hour exploring before returning to the centre where they reflect and share their excursion experiences.
“From the outset of their journey, children are exposed to authentic opportunities to learn with real life experiences that require them to take assess and take ‘healthy’ risks,” Ms Mitchell said.
Niki Buchan, a consultant from Inspired EC, joined Goodstart on their nature walks in 2016 and said it was wonderful to observe children of all ages highly engaged in exploring the forest and area around the creek.
“I saw high levels of creative and imaginative play. The children showed resilience as well as perseverance in their self-chosen tasks,” Ms Buchan said.
“The opportunities offered by these regular excursions are highly beneficial to children and they are privileged to have access to such high quality care with educators who believe in their capabilities and competencies.”
Nature Play Week celebrates initiatives of all shapes and sizes that reconnect kids with nature and the outdoors. 
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