(02) 9948 5546 Early Learning Centre and Preschool in Seaforth

If you’re the kind of parent who wants your kids outside more than you want them on screens (and let’s face it, who isn’t?) then the recent trend towards bush kinder programs in childcare centres and preschools will be a welcome one.

We’ve launched our own bush kinder program at Seaforth Childcare in the preschool room recently – and we’re excited to introduce our children to a holistic new way of engaging and interacting with the natural environment – while also using nature as a tool for learning.

What is bush kinder?

Great question. Bush kinder – also sometimes called ‘bush school’ programs – is an outdoor, child-led, hands-on approach to learning.

The program was inspired by ‘forest schools’ from Denmark, Canada and New Zealand. In Denmark, the ‘skovbørnehave’ (forest kindergartens) encourage children to roam free in the wooded area beside their kindergarten. They’re encouraged to climb trees, experience the tactile, sensory parts of the natural world around them, and make up games using the natural materials they find.

What are the benefits of bush kinder?

It’s a program that helps young children develop their physical skills, agility, self-awareness and critical thinking. Supported by childcare workers, children instinctively learn about assessing and taking risks – and exercise decision making when overcoming challenges. This helps children overcome their fears.

Research also shows that children in a bush kinder program hone their independence, confidence, mental wellbeing, sustainable thinking, empathy and social skills. Bringing the classroom and learning outside is an amazing way to stoke your child’s curiosity and open up new worlds for them to discover.

It’s also a great way to calm children down: numerous studies show that ‘green schoolyards’ can help reduce stress and build resilience.

Some of the ways children will foster new skills is through climbing trees, collecting natural materials for construction / play, splashing in puddles, squatting down to look at insects and asking endless questions about what they’re seeing and finding. Later they can document the experience and their newfound knowledge through art and writing, sports, games and dramatic play.

Bush kinder at Seaforth Childcare

The preschoolers in our Kingfishers room will be embarking on weekly excursions to the area behind Seaforth Community Centre. This local bushland area is full of trees to climb, lush grass areas to run around and thickets of branches and bushes for the children to investigate.

We’ll also be offering the children the opportunity to connect their learning of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture to the land they play on while they’re at our centre. Exploring local flora and fauna is part of the experience, and the children will also see and learn about the impact man-made objects (such as rubbish) have on the environment.

In this way, we’ll help foster the children’s appreciation of how the Aboriginal people have cared for the land for so many years – and how they can continue to care for it themselves.

What are the risks of bush kinder?

We understand – the idea of letting your children loose into the Australian bush is quite nerve-wracking for some parents, but please be assured we have a detailed risk assessment plan in place.

This involves the control methods the educators will be implementing to keep the children safe while on our weekly excursions, and include things like road safety, interactions with wildlife, managing hazards like rubbish or sustaining injuries in the bush (like tripping over, or experiencing a bite or sting).

Our educators will also be carrying well-stocked first-aid kits complete with epi-pens or puffers for children with action plans and allergies.

We’ll also be roping in extra educators and parent volunteers for additional support and supervision – and we’ll use protective gear such as aeroguard, sunscreen, hats, enclosed shoes and hi-vis vests.

Nature play ideas for home

We’re extraordinarily lucky (usually) to be blessed with good weather in Australia – and it makes sense to get your children outside as much as possible.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t live near bushland or are in an urban environment; nature is all around us and there are always opportunities for learning outdoors.

Some ideas for nature play at home include:

  • Creating sticks and making a pretend ‘bonfire’
  • Looking at how birds build their nests and creating items to build one
  • Make your own mud kitchen with pots, bowls sticks, earth and water
  • Take a sensory walk! Let your bare feet feel explore the grass, textured mulch or gritty sand
  • Sort items you find outside into categories – like leaves, stones, sticks
  • Press leaves or bark into playdoh and see the pattern the item leaves behind
  • Create an outdoor cubby with old blankets, bushy plants or big sticks

Enjoy and let us know how you go!