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Learning From Nature

Learning in the Early Years is so much more than ABCs and 123s. Children are new to the world and are learning to interpret everything that is going on around them, including things that Adults could not imagine would need to be discovered. A child’s mind is bustling, always touching, observing, asking questions, running, and listening, as they quite literally absorb everything that is going on around them. It has been proven that young children learn through their senses which are in a heightened state when learning in an outdoor environment.

The outdoors offers a child an unlimited number of resources and experiences to encourage the development of skills that cannot be achieved in the indoor classroom setting, which is why Bush Kindy is a precious experience. Not only will children develop a positive connection with nature itself, but they will become comfortable within themselves as they learn and experiment with what their bodies can and, most importantly, can’t do. When children learn to play in nature, they learn healthy behaviours that will serve them throughout their lives. There’s a reason the movement towards outdoor learning is growing—it’s not just a fun way for kids to get dirty and climb trees, but it’s also an essential part of their mental and physical development.

Two Children playing on the banks of a river

What is Bush Kindy?

Bush Kindy is an outdoor early learning program that celebrates the freedom and fun of nature play. It is all about taking the learning from the indoor environment into the outdoors. In a childcare setting, this typically means taking a walk to the local park and allowing the children to explore the natural world around them. In Bush Kindy, children are actively engaged in learning while they explore and experience the world around them. Nature play is an extremely healthy activity for young children, as it encourages natural instincts like creativity, exploration, and physical activity. Bush Kindy strives to create a positive environment where children can feel safe being active outdoors with other friendly children in their neighbourhood.

But the learning begins before the children even arrive at the park. Children need to prepare to leave the centre, ready to take on the world, which means creating a routine that promotes self-autonomy with the assistance of educators when required. Shoes and socks on, sunscreen applied, hats on heads, water bottles in hand and hi-vis vests on. As children become familiar with these routines, they will learn to do these things independently. With higher-than-normal educator to child ratios, children are placed in a large pram and/or encouraged to walk, fostering listening skills. No Bush Kindy experience is the same and can be anything as simple as a picnic under a large tree to a nature treasure hunt where children must look for specific items which will be used in later experiences in the classroom. Over time, children will begin to notice the seasonal changes in the outdoor environment, how the flowers are blossoming, the leaves are falling, and the diverse types of bugs on the trees, all promoting a sense of belonging in the outdoors.

Bush Kindy in the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF)

The EYLF is the curriculum on which Educators base their planning to facilitate children’s learning. Learning Outcome 2 “Children are connected with and contribute to their world” emphasises children establishing relationships within their communities. There are many communities that a child belongs to, their family, friendship circles, childcare, and, more broadly, earth. Children need to learn how to interact with and respond to their communities, which is why outcome 2.4 focuses explicitly on “children becoming socially responsible and showing respect for the environment.” As children spend more time in nature through a Bush Kindy experience, they begin to learn the boundaries of what is possible, investigate, project and explore new ideas and begin to show growing appreciation and care for natural and constructed environments, all crucial parts of the EYLF.
For example, Bush Kindy helps kids build resilience, which is one of the most critical skills they’ll need as they grow up. Resilience not only helps children develop healthy habits but also gives them confidence when facing challenges or setbacks later on in life. Resilience is essential when raising kids who aren’t afraid of failure because they know they’ll bounce back and try again! Bush Kindy provides a productive balance between the structured and the free. While there is a set curriculum, children can develop problem-solving skills under the guidance of experienced teachers. It ensures that children are not kept inside all day, and at the same time, they are given an environment that is conducive to learning.

A river surrounded by greenery

Bush Kindy at Home

Bush Kindy isn’t something that is just done in a childcare situation and can easily be integrated into your child’s outdoor time at home. At its core, Bush Kindy is about allowing your child to explore with their senses in nature, so there is no right or wrong way to go about it. Begin by having conversations with your child about what they observe on your walks on the street without giving away the answers.

A group of children on a Bush Kindy excrusion