let the children playHow will you be spending this weekend? For some, it will be a time of reflection and restoration. For others, it will be rest and recreation. No matter what you do, we encourage you to get out and go wild with your family – let the children play, make, create and explore.

Are you a helicopter parent or a hummingbird? It is easy to get swept up in a focus on academic achievement, rules and reaching the next milestone. There is plenty of research to suggest that we should let the children play – regardless of age! Getting dirty, taking some safe risks, exploring their world, solving problems and having the freedom to run, jump and play outside are vital to the development of your child. And just as important as learning in the classroom!

So this weekend here are a few suggestions to help your child (and maybe your own inner child) break free:

  1. Go for a walk and see what you can see in your local botanic garden or national park – these wonderful public amenities are free and have amazing spaces for children to explore and connect with the natural world. The older ones can climb or maybe navigate a track on their own.
  2. Ditch the store bought buns and make your own  at home – a bit of flour, some sultanas, yeast and a little bit of mixing action can equal a lot of fun, not to mention the learning opportunities. Think science, math, and home economics.
  3. ‘I went to sea to see the sea, to see what I could see’ – is the ocean more your thing? Then take a trip to the beach, it doesn’t have to be a hot summers day to poddle along the sea shore, make sand castles, and collect driftwood, shells and all the rest to make an impromptu artwork.
  4. Make play dough, slime, goop, bubble mixture, candles, bath-bombs or natural body scrubs – a great way to get their hands dirty and learn about self sufficiency at the same time.
  5. Go crazy with the finger paints – this can be as simple as making your own food colouring based paints and newspaper or a trip to the discount store for some budget art supplies and big canvas. Set up outside and create an artwork for inside.
  6. Find a space outdoors, put on some old clothes and get cracking on a paper mâché project – ideal for a longer weekend, this can unleash the creative side of every member of the family. Who doesn’t love the feel of gluey, claggy paper squishing through their hands?
  7. Pot some plants, seedlings or seeds – you can create a no dig garden in a bag of potting mix, no pots needed.
  8. Get on your bike – or skateboard, rip stick, roller blades, scooter or the wheeled device of your choice and take yourself and the kids for a ride. Ask your teenager to teach you if you don’t know how… Don’t have a bike, don’t worry, google ‘free bikes’ and if you live in a capital city, chances are one of the new bike-sharing startups will have a free bike for you to use.
  9. Start a fire – in a safe way, of course. Gather the materials, create the fire place,  let the kids light the match and watch ‘bush TV’. A few toasted marshmallows won’t go astray either….

Remember whatever you do, a shared activity in the outdoors will benefit young and old alike. Learning never stops and teachers aren’t just found in the classroom so get out there and explore together!

More reading/viewing to encourage you to let the children play:

Nature play helps chlet the children playildren run wild

Early years Bush connection course

Kids gone wild – kindergartens in Denmark

Nature Play Australia

National Parks in Australia

Your child will be the architect of their own future