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

Its time for Nature Play

nature play

In the last week, our ‘normal’ lives have changed enormously. A new phrase has been added to our lexicon – social distancing. As our beaches, playgrounds and soon to be work places and schools close we need to adjust. We need to find ways, as a family, to deal with stress and anxiety of this temporary way of living.

Whilst we cannot do our normal activities, maybe now is the time to disconnect and reconnect with nature and enjoy nature play.

What can nature do for us?

Mental Health

Tuning into nature can bring a sense of calm and reduce our anxiety. Immersing ourselves is nature can boost our self control, focus and self esteem.

Physical Health

Exploring nature, either in local reserve or backyard can release built-up energy and steam. Running, jumping, climbing it helps to build co-ordination and muscle strength.


Not all learning happens in a structured environment like a classroom.

When connecting with nature, a child and a parent learns to love and respect it. From here we can build a more sustainable future. We can use our social distancing and potential lockdown as an opportunity. An opportunity to learn forgotten skills – teach kids basic wood working, learning about the birds we see, what trees are growing.

Then on other hand, we can look at what can we do for nature? Can we start that compost or worm farm we have been talking about? Grow some seedlings or take a walk and pick up any rubbish?

If you are looking for resources and idea’s on activities you can do with your family, join our wild@home membership program or follow ‘Wild Kindy’ on Facebook and Instagram.