Hopping down that bunny trail

Hopping down the bunny trailEaster is around the corner, for many this is a time of too much chocolate, fluffy bunnies and jelly beans. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m partial to chocolate eggs, myself, and I know that my kids are looking forward to the Easter bunny’s visit. Treats are a great part of celebrating any holiday.

But I recently read a blog from Juliet Robertson, a British outdoor educator that broadened my concept for the Easter egg hunt. She talks a lot about getting kids outside, the benefits of learning academic subjects out of doors and using the world around us to find teachable moments. She had older students develop a ‘treasure trail’ for their younger buddies, using rope, string, rocks and other elements they found in the woods near their school. She didn’t dictate the path or how to create the hunt, but let the students guide their own process.

It made me think about how an Easter hunt could have ‘treasure’ at the end, but that we could have some great fun painting rocks or eggs beforehand and my older daughter could be the creative force for a trail for her little brother and vice versa. It would mean more creativity, less chocolate, and more fun!

And I’m not alone, the idea of bringing natural elements into our play is gaining credence. BC Recreation and Parks Association is currently circulating a survey for municipalities that will broaden understanding of BC’s current playscapes and interest in outdoor recreation. They have some fabulous resources attached to the survey, so even if you are not part of a municipality and don’t fit the survey requirements, you might want to take a look. The Alberta Parks and Recreation Association has compiled a comprehensive report that outlines the thinking around the need for play – “Play – It’s Serious Business.”

One site in the group has great plans for low cost, do it yourself playscapes that anyone with some time and energy could implement, whether on a school site or in your own backyard. The idea around playscapes, in contrast to the traditional playground (usually a man-made structure), is that children play on a range of surfaces and activities, that they use the sand, gravel and woodchips surrounding a play structure as much as the structure itself. That using natural elements like a stand of trees or stream bed around your playground will broaden children’s creativity through imaginative play and problem solving – skills that they will need to grow and learn.

Studies have shown that children don’t use playground structures as intended, and they quickly become bored with ‘safe’ structures created for them by adults. What the ‘child and nature’ movement is promoting, supported by our recreation sector, is allowing children a little more freedom, to develop their own ways of playing. The benefits from this include increased independence, sustained physical activity and problem-solving skills. So rather than restricting your activities to only the safe and structured, allow your kids to hop down a bunny trail of their own choosing this Easter, hang back a safe distance, and see where their imaginations take them!

Samantha Hartley-Folz
Manager, Programs and Policy
April 2012

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