Family Friendly Bushwalks

We are fortunate in Sydney to have an array of bushwalks to explore.  Knowing which one’s are suitable for young families can be a challenge, as no one wants to piggy back their tired 3 year old back to the car. Here are my tried and tested top 12 family friendly bushwalks.

Field of Mars Reserve, East Ryde

Terrain:  Boardwalk and narrow bush tracks

Pram Friendly? Several tracks, one is wheelchair and pram friendly

Start: 220 Pittwater Road, East Ryde

Why we love: Array of wildlife (ducks, long neck turtles, birdlife) and nature play area for those children that love building dens.

More information: https://www.ryde.nsw.gov.au/files/assets/public/maps/field-of-mars-walking-trails-map.pdf

Sugarloaf Point, Hunters Hill

Length: 1.4km loop

Terrain:  Rocky

Pram Friendly? No

Start: Buffalo Creek Reserve

Why we love: Spotting crabs on boardwalk and picnic next to Lane Cove River

Fairyland Track, Lane Cove National Park

Length: 5.3km

Terrain:  Varied.

Pram Friendly? No

Start: Fullers Bridge,

Why we love: Varied environment of bush, Lane Cove River and Golf Course

More information: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/australia/new-south-wales/fairyland-track-loop

Whale Rock

Length: 1.8km Loop. Approximately 1 hour

Terrain: Steep down to Whale Rock and then flat path

Pram Friendly? No

Start: Ron Payne Park, Epping

Why we love: Kids loved searching for whale rock

Baker’s Cottage

Length: 1.5km

Terrain:  Road and short rocky bush walk

Pram Friendly? Yes, On the road section

Start: Lane Cove Weir

Why we love: Birdlife, and historical cottage. Can add to other walks in the National Park

More Information: http://www.wildwalks.com/bushwalking-and-hiking-in-nsw/lane-cove-national-park/baker-s-cottage.html

Terry’s Creek

Length: 600m from Carpark at Epping Aquatic Centre to the waterfall. Approximately 30-45 minutes return

Terrain: Flat

Pram Friendly? No

Start: Epping Aquatic Centre

Why we love: Creek crossing and the waterfall

The Fishponds

Length: 4.5km

Terrain:  Varied. Wide paths, to stairs, and stepping stones

Pram Friendly? No

Start: Rosemead Road Picnic Area, Hornsby

Why we love: Stepping stones at the fishponds

More information: https://sydneyuncovered.com/blue-gum-walk-hornsby

Orange Pie Track

Length: About 900m loop walk. Approx 30-45 minutes

Terrain: Rocky fire trail

Pram Friendly? No

Start: End of Whitbread Place, North Rocks

Why we love: Found a bowerbird nest

Balls Head Reserve

Length: 2km

Terrain:  Varied

Pram Friendly? Several tracks, one is wheelchair and pram friendly

Start: Southern end of Balls Head Road

Why we love: Views of Harbour Bridge

Flat Rock Beach Walking Track

Length: 500m one way

Terrain:  Steep

Pram Friendly? No

Start: End of Killarney Drive, Killarney Heights

Why we love: Kids loved playing at the sheltered River beach

Kuring-gai Wildflower Gardens, St Ives

Length: 350m to 3km

Terrain:  Variety from Boardwalks, paths to bushwalk

Pram Friendly? Sensory walk is

Start: Carpark of Kuring-gai Wildflower Garden

Why we love: Sensory Walk and the wildflowers during the springtime.

More information: https://www.krg.nsw.gov.au/Things-to-do/Ku-ring-gai-Wildflower-Garden/Wildflower-Garden-bush-trails

Blue Gum Reserve, Chatswood

Length: 5km

Terrain:  Steep entry to moderate walking track

Pram Friendly? No

Start: Kooba St, Chatswood (Scout Hall)

Why we love: Exploring the creek and caves

More information: https://www.willoughby.nsw.gov.au/Environment/Bushland-and-Wildlife/Bushwalking-Tracks/Tracks/Blue-Gum-Reserve-Walking-Tracks

If your family is new to bushwalking, remember to make the experience fun for the kids or they won’t want to do it again. Firstly, make sure you are dressed in comfortable clothes/ shoes and of course, have water bottles and snacks – always snacks!

Whilst on the walk, to make it more engaging try a scavenger hunt, make a nature bracelet, or make a banksia man. But most of all, take your time and have fun!

We would love to know your favorite family friendly bushwalks too, so please let us know below.

Mud, Marvelous Mud

What child doesn’t love to play in mud! I have fond childhood memories of making mud pies, decorating mud cakes with flowers from the garden with my brother. Such a simple activity of dirt and water can provide hours of unstructured play. I know its messy and leads to extra washing, but there are so many benefits:

  • Stimulates the immune system to release serotonin, making us feel HAPPY
  • Increase physical movement
  • Opportunities to develop fine and gross motor skills
  • Creative opportunities
  • Assists sensory processing
  • STEM experience – experimenting with texture, and consistency as children mix water, dirt or even sand
  • Connection with your environment
  • It’s fun

When it comes to mud play, it’s pretty obvious I’m an advocate. So, here are 10 simple and engaging invitations to play that you can set up for your child or at your preschool.

  1. Mud Kitchen – Simply put out a collection of pots, pans, muffin trays with some dirt and water and let the kids go wild
  2. Mud Pit – Fill a big bucket or inflatable pool with water and dirt and let the kids jump, splash and slide
  3. Painting – Fill paint pot with mud, and start painting! Maybe paint an old box
  4. Make Mud Playdoh – Here is our recipe
  5. Excavation – Fill a bucket with dirt and hide ‘treasures or dinosaurs and let children dig them out
  6. Mud Ice Cream – Get those stale ice-cream cones out of the pantry, and mud and play
  7. Rally Car Race – Gather some cars, trucks and make a mud race course
  8. Construction Site – Gather Rocks, mud and construction vehicles and its, time to start building the roads
  9. Mud Monsters or Clay Faces – Mold your mud and decorate with foraged nature items from the garden and stick to your favorite tree.
  10. Mud Drawing – Spread some mud on a surface and practice writing Letters or Draw a picture with your finger

The opportunities for ooey gooey mud play are endless.

Have you played in the mud with your children? I’d love to hear what you did in the comments below!

Not Just A Stick

When a stick is in the hands of a child, the possibilities of this open ended material are endless. In the eyes of a child, that precious stick could be:

– Fishing Rod

– A Flag

– Sword

– Horse

– Spiders Web

– Paint Brush or Pencil

– Tree Person

– Den or Hide-out

What are Open Ended Materials?

Another common term for open ended materials is ‘Loose Parts.’ These materials are non descript, with no instructions and no ‘right or wrong’ way to be played with. They can be used solo or in conjunction with other materials.

In nature, these could be sticks, leaves, pinecones, rocks, dirt, sand, water or grass. Manufactured materials could be string, tyres, rope, pallet, crates, tubes or boxes.

Benefits of Open Ended Materials?

– Open ended materials provide the opportunity for endless play. It allows a child to:

– Create without limitations of an end product

– Express themselves

– Problem Solve

– Stretch their cognitive skills

– Challenge themselves

– Take risks

Children of all ages can move, carry, create with open ended materials. They can play solo or collaborate with other children but essentially they become active participants in their own learning. Through exploring open ended materials a child can become an architect, designer, builder, inventor or artist.

How can you incorporate into your child’s play?

Open ended materials can be collected on nature walks or you can re-purpose recycled goods from around the home (cardboard rolls, string or shoe box). Our favourite place to collect manufactured materials is the Reverse Garbage Co-op in Marrickville. They can be big, small, you can use them on their own or inconjuction with other toys. The materials can be displayed on sorting trays or simply in crate in the garden for your child to explore – as long they are accessible they will create.

The possibilities are endless

Risky Play: Why do children love it?

As a parent, we naturally feel the need to protect them from harm. However, we need to give them opportunities to explore new experiences and take on challenges that test their capabilities in an environment that is not 100% safe and has a risk of physical injury. This is what we define as Risky Play.

Risky Play is increasingly becoming recognised as an important part of a child’s development. According to Ellen Beate Hansen Sandseter, a professor at Queen Maud University in Trondheim, Norway, there are six different categories of risky play:

Play with Great heights: Letting children climb, whether its tree’s, rocks, steep slopes or climbing structure.

Play with High speeds: Children enjoy experiencing a variety of speeds, learning how to go fast enough for excitement but not enough to lose control. Different types of play that represent risk and excitement are swinging, skating, sliding, bike riding or running down a sloping hill.

Dangerous tools: Depending on the culture, children play with knives, bows and arrows or other tools considered to be potentially dangerous. Children enjoy the satisfaction of being trusted to use tools. Simple tools that can be introduced are palm drills, peelers, Opinel pocket knife, hammers and nails.

Dangerous elements: What child doesn’t love to play with fire, or water, both which pose some danger.

Rough and tumble: Children everywhere fight playfully, chasing and wrestling.

Disappearing/getting lost: All children play hide and seek and experience the scariness of the hide, anticipation of being found or the excitement of finding someone. Older children games of ‘Spot Light’ or venturing off, on their own, away from adults, into spaces that are new to them.

Doesn’t this sound fun?

Benefits of Risky Play

Risky play is crucial to a child’s development and it’s important as parents or educators that we don’t limit their exposure to such activities. There are some key- life skills that can be gained from risky play:

  • Building resilience
  • Develop gross motor skills e.g. Balance and Coordination
  • Confidence and independence
  • Problem solving and resourcefulness
  • Ability to calculate risk and evaluate their capabilities
  • Learn consequences
  • Inventiveness
  • Handle tools safely

Children are highly motivated to play in risky ways, but they are also very good at knowing their own capacities and avoiding risks they are not ready to take. It’s when we pressure them to take a risk that they are not ready for does an accident occur. An example of this is a child climbing a tree, they pause on a limb and ask if it’s ‘safe’ to jump? We say yes, they jump and break an arm – they trusted us. What if we read their hesitation and question then instead of us giving them a yes or no, maybe we should ask what they thought? Guaranteed the answer would be no, and they would choose to climb back down, because they had already assessed the situation as too risky.

If we as parents and educators give children the opportunity for risky play the benefits outweigh the risks and provide the child with holistic development.

We would love to hear your child’s favourite risky play activity?

Backyard Nature Play

As a child I was always spending my time outdoors, climbing trees and making petal potions.  Outside I was curious and learning calculated risks and connected to nature.  In the last month our ‘normal’ lives have changed enormously.  As our beaches, playgrounds and schools close we need to adjust our daily activities.  This substantial change can leave us and our children stressed and anxious.  Research shows that being immersed and connected to nature can reduce the effect of these emotions on our mind and body.

As parents we need to encourage our children to get outside and explore their nature spaces, backyard or communal garden to find a sense of calm.

Here are a few activities to have your children engaged in nature play.

  1. Frozen Nature Eggs

Recycle some rinsed Egg Shells.  Explore your garden for petals, leaves, gumnuts or herbs.  Place in the egg shell and fill with water.  Leave over night in the freezer. The next day, peel the egg shell off and your beautiful frozen nature eggs will be revealed.

2. Build a Nest

Collect twigs, leaves and build a nest for an animal.

3. Bird Watching

Sit outside, watch and listen.  What birds can you see?  Kookaburra, Rosella, Rainbow Lorikeet or a Cockatoo. You can download a printable ‘I Spy Birds’ worksheet here.

4. Colours of a Rainbow

Draw a rainbow on a piece of paper.  Can you find all the colours in your garden?

5. Mud Monster

Mix dirt and water to a thick consistency and decorate using leaves, sticks or petals. You could also use clay or playdoh if you prefer.

6. Climb a Tree

How high can you climb? Remember to always have 3 body parts (e.g. two feet, one hand) touching a tree to reduce risk of unbalancing.

7. Nature Bracelet

Loosely stick masking tape around your wrist – sticky side out. Walk around your garden and decorate until no space is left on the tape.

8. Mud Kitchen

This doesn’t need to be fancy to be fun! Simply use different height logs, or planks of timber and add variety of different size pots n pans. Add water, dirt, natural resources and let the kids create and explore

9. Seasonal Tree

Draw the trunk and branches of a tree on a piece of paper. Decorate the tree and trunk with leaves and bark you find in the garden. What Season is it? Do the leaves or the bark change depending on the season?

10. Bug Bingo

Wander around your backyard, peak under pebbles and leaves – what bugs can you find? We have a printable Bug Bingo card you can download.

We hope this list of activities has your family enjoying your backyard and connecting with nature.

For more ideas and activities check out how your kids can be ‘Naturally Learning’ at wildkindy.com.au