National Week of Play — Nature's Treasure Baskets

Play Week logoBy Alison Heseltine

In these difficult and challenging times we’re all on the look out for a special offer – a chance of a “freebie” or two.

Combine this with the play resources that nature provides, and we have a winning combination.

Not only saving money, but also taking a more eco-sustainable approach to supporting our children’s learning and development, while at the same time connecting them with the amazing natural world we live in.

Free and found

As early years educators we want children to have the opportunity to engage with a rich range of experiences that will support their learning and development and the free and found resources that we find in nature’s treasure basket provide for this in abundance.

Whether you have a forest on your doorstep, a small paved area or a park down the road there are treasures to be found – leaves, flowers, feathers, sticks, pine cones, mud and bark to name but a few.

I love that by involving the children in collecting the resources themselves it gives them a greater sense of belonging.

These are their treasures that they have found, and that they are actively using in taking ownership of their learning.

Making a stir

One of our children’s favourite activities was inspired by a story from my own childhood that really captured their imaginations – Famous Seaweed Soup by Antoinette Truglio Martin where on a trip to the beach all the ingredients needed for seaweed soup are collected in a bucket, from shells to seaweed, and all topped off with a final flourish and a stir with a seagull’s feather.

This story has gone on to inspire so many famous soups with our children deciding on their recipe by what they were able to find outdoors. Each time without fail our adult eyes are opened to how children see nature, what to us might seem mundane, to them is an object of awe and wonder - and a vital soup ingredient!

Watching the care that they take choosing and preparing ingredients and using their motor skills to mix and pour, listening in to the language they use, seeing their social skills develop as they negotiate with each other and problem solve, and best of all, being invited into their play is one of the privileges of being with children in their early years.

One of my favourite moments was observing a child adding the “seasoning” to her soup, some rosemary from one of the pots in the garden and then using a peppermill to add some imaginary pepper made from hole punched leaves.

No greater thought and care could have been taken even if in the MasterChef kitchen itself.

By observing this play and giving time for children to extend their thinking the soup was then added to further when another child decided that they needed more and using mud (nature’s playdough) fashioned bread rolls just as they had seen on a family trip to a café.

Play using nature’s free and found resources is limitless if, as adults in our provision, we allow the time and opportunity for it to be.

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This blog was published as part of the Alliance's National Week of Play.

To get the free National Week of Play resource pack which is full of play ideas please send us your details and we'll send you the link to the pack.