Keep it simple
Kids just love repetition, but adults can get a bit bored by it...how can we keep everyone happy??
I love planning for Nature Play sessions. We adults come up with these fabulous ideas that I then spend time perfecting in my own mind before I arrive at my sessions. We have wonderful ideas such as "potion-making", "mud faces", "birds", "Creating a vertical water-play contraption", "Marching band", "Mud kitchen", "den-building", "Nature Art" to name but a few. The adults are happy with these bigger ideas, but the kids? They mostly just like mixing dirt and water and jumping in muddy puddles!
It's made me rethink how I plan for my sessions. Through much experimentation, I have come around to the idea that if we captivate the kids with a repetitive task, we adults can switch our worrying minds off and just enjoy the moment we are in, either actively engaged with our child, playing alongside our child, or off in the background having a peaceful moment (alone or with friends). Everyone wins! The kids get to learn about their world. They get to measure water in cups, sample different flavours of dirt, feel the different textures on their skin and experience temperature, texture, heavy-work, mindfulness, concentration and the wonders of the natural world. All the catchphrases of modern parenting! "Sensory play", building "S.T.E.M. skills", practicing "mindfulness", "building the microbiome" etc. We get to tick some parental boxes and the kids get to be happy just being kids. Simple. Perfect.
Here are a few ideas to captivate the kids! The simpler the better in my experience!
String some watering cans, teapots and buckets through a rope, secure each end and you have a water-play station
- Create a space where the dirt can be dug up, put a few digging tools around and maybe some cars or dinosaurs and let the kids do the rest!
- Another favourite is lids! In all the groups, the kids just love lids. Lids on...lids off...lids on...lids off. Sometimes this seems like the most boring thing an adult can imagine, but boy is this repetition doing wonders for your child's brain! You can use this time to repeat the words "on" and "off", or you can sit back and relax as your child is mesmerised.
- Water. It really can't be simpler than water. There are children who just say one word at Nature and it's "water". Water dripping slowly into a container or pushing over a big container of water and watching the water gushing out!
- Add some mild detergent to the water and make a "washing station". Wash the cars, a doll, some animals, rocks, seed pods or paintbrushes!
NOTE; Now whilst you can hopefully get a chance to switch off and relax, it goes without saying that you should NEVER leave a child unattended around water! Even a shallow pool can be risky. A child can go hours without food or drink, but only seconds without air. If you really need a sleep or a break from your child, get a babysitter and have some time out.