Over the past 18 months we have met thousands of kids from all over Perth, most of them between the ages of 4-12 years old. It's been a delight to watch these children interact with nature and their enthusiasm reflects their innate love for the natural world.
It's not all been smooth sailing of course, starting a small business is difficult but I was prepared for that. What I wasn't prepared for was the number of children who had developed somewhat of a generalised fear of nature, some sort of biophobia. In my experience it was most prevalent in girls and the older the child the more likely they were to have this generalised fear.
Last winter during our school holiday program I asked hundreds of kids "What do mushrooms/fungi do?" and every time without fail they would yell back "Poison us!". I would ask "What do you do if you see a snake?" and they would yell back "Kill it!". "Are insects good or bad?", bad of course. Climb trees? "What if I fall out?".... you get the picture. Maybe to some this sounds like the kids are just being very sensible but their answers aren't sensible at all. By telling kids "You can look but you better not touch" we have sent the message that nature is dangerous. We humans are part of nature, green spaces and natural areas are places that reduce our anxiety and stress, yet for these kids nature was stressing them out!
So how do we stop this disconnect? Prevention and education is always easier than trying to change behaviour so I knew that we needed to take Kids Nature Club to a younger audience and so our Little Grubs Bush Playgroup was born.
Little Grubs Bush Playgroup
Little Grubs is an outdoors nature based play group for kids 2 - 4 years old.
Little Grubs gives parents the chance to explore nature with their children in a relaxed and safe environment. It allows kids to take supported risks appropriate to the environment and to themselves.
We know that outdoor play is essential for children. Playing in the dirt, climbing trees, engaging with insects and wildlife, planting seeds, running in the rain, searching for natures treasures.... why do these things??
There is the immunological benefits of playing in dirt, the physical benefits of exercise outdoors on uneven and sometimes unpredictable terrain. There is the emotional benefits of being in green space and natural areas but most importantly outdoor play offers kids the opportunity to engage in different types of play and to practice a lot of important skills necessary for their development.
Play is how little children learn, so the richer the play experience the better.
Dirt, mud, bugs, rain and sticks, these are all wonderful opportunities for sensory play. Climbing trees, balancing on logs and jumping off rocks are excellent examples of risky play. These activities are also vital for developing gross motor skills, balance and body awareness.
Playing in nature surrounded by plants, insects and wildlife gives kids the opportunity to build empathy for other living things and helps them to understand that they are a part of nature and that they can help take care of it.
Nature play encourages imaginative play, because unlike in other environments there are no set rules to follow or steps to take; a stick can be almost anything!
Nature play isn't goal orientated, it's play orientated. Scavenger hunts, bug hunts, habitat hunts, bird watching and our Find It! sensory matching cards help kids (and us!) to slow down and pay attention to our surroundings. As with most things, the more you do it, the better you get and the more cool things you'll discover.
Little Grubs sessions are located in local natural areas, ideally suited to match the needs of the program and the kids, providing them the space and environment to explore and discover their surroundings. Little Grubs aims to foster the relationship between the child and nature with fun hands on activities using natural resources for inspiration.
Little Grubs is run by Kirstie, the owner of Kids Nature Club. Kirstie has a background in psychology and a passion for nature discovery and conservation. Each Little Grubs play session has a theme, two activities and time for play. The sessions are not goal orientated, rather they are child-led and explorative in nature. All the materials and equipment for the Little Grubs activities and sessions are provided by Kids Nature Club and are included in the fee.
Little Grubs operates all year round. Outdoor play is important all year round, if you find it tricky to get outdoors in the winter then Little Grubs can be the perfect catalyst to help you get out there! We choose the locations, weekly themes, activities and we provide the materials, you just show up! All the activities and locations are chosen with care so that you can replicate the experience yourself in your own time if you choose to.
So jump on in and join the fun - www.kidsnatureclub.com.au/littlegrubs