Articles Tagged with: nature based learning

Plan, Create and Build an Outside Play Kitchen

Stuck for something to do while in isolation?

Do you want to promote engrossed play? 

Do you want to foster learning? 

Do you want your children to connect with nature instead of the internet? 

Or are you a teacher wanting to get your teeth stuck in to something when you return to your learning setting?

I challenge you to work together with your child/ren to plan, create and build a mud kitchen/outside play kitchen in your back yard.

First up, you need to plan where. Talk about this together.  Work through reasonings.  This needs to be in a space where the ground can get stood on and potential turn to dirt/mud, preferably where near forage and in reach of a hose to maintain tidiness of the space.

Next, the plan.  Take a walk around the house together. What have you got at home? Can you reuse and recycle some junk?  Perhaps a pallet or 2, some old wood, an old table, some wood crates, buckets, baskets and bowls?
Keep it simple and use what you’ve got!
What resources have you got around the house? Sticks, shells, bark, stones.  Chuck in an old pot, pan, bowl, plastics, muffin trays, jugs and kitchen utensils. 

Do some gardening to add to the space.  Plant some herbs, grass and pansies in small pots or old crockery.
Have you got some large rocks or log stumps/rounds? These make good seats. 
Cable reels make great tables, tyres, planks of wood or recycle an old table. 

There doesn’t need to be water running to it, but if there is a nearby outside tap you could establish expectations early – fill only as needed and turn tap off or tap stays at drippings with bowl underneath. Discuss where you want children to ‘clean’ selves when play is finished.

Creating a play space outside where children can play freely and use their imagination holds great learning benefits. 
In this space, children can create, explore, imagine and discover.  Children with explore language as they role play.  They will invite you in to their play, offering tasty treats and you can gratefully accept, joining their play.

Preparing the play space in the kitchen, cleaning up during or after the play all teaches aspects of managing self. 
There are also great sensory benefits when working with and playing in nature.  All senses are fuelled within this space – touch, sound, sight, taste and smell.  The children will also be soaking up the healing properties in nature.
As the child/ren mix dirt with water, watch a worm dig or plant herbs and nurture them to grow, they explore science and nature concepts.
As they work creating tasty morsels, filling containers, counting how many treats needed, sorting and working with order, children explore early mathematical learning. 
Place a clipboard and pencil nearby and I’m sure they will make use of this somehow too. A great extension for early literacy – they might write recipes menus or orders.If you have concrete nearby, chalk is a great resource. 
This space will allow the child/ren to become deeply engrossed in their play, thus making the learning more meaningful. 

This space is a working space and can be continuously added to and beautified.  Allow the child/ren to take ownership of this space.  Allow them to imagine, create and play out their ideas. Let them take the lead in their learning. Let them own this space. Children will play in such a space for years to come.

Kia ora and hello, 

My name is Nickie and I am a passionate, heart centered and intentional early years teacher, leader and mentor.  Dedicated to personal and professional growth, it is empowerment, kindness and connection which guide my practice.
With 18+ years experience, working in Early Childhood Education centres in New Zealand and Australia, I have a passion to share, motivate and inspire teachers and parents, with my practical knowledge and experience in teaching, leading and mentoring.
I invite you to open your mind and heart to new ideas and ways of teaching and leading to empower. I hope you find something in my blog that inspires and motivates you to be the best person, teacher and/or parent you can be.

Nga mihi nui,



What is Holistic Education?

Self-reflective, creative, intrinsically motivated beings with a balanced world view is the ultimate goal of holistic education.

Holistic education models celebrate the child for who they are, here and now. Acknowledging and supporting their life experiences and barriers and adopting a solution focused mentality that works with the child to explore what works and what went well, instead of placing an emphasis on what isn’t working.

Holistic education does not prescribe itself to a specific methodology. Although philosophies such as Montessori, Reggio Emilia and Waldorf incorporate holistic education concepts through their emphasis on social and emotional learning.

Holistic education acknowledges that each child has their own learning style. ‘Success’ is measured independently, valuing a child’s own abilities; their passions, curiosities and personal goals, not against standardised testing and rigid curriculums.

Holistic education supports intellectual, emotional, physical, psychological, creative and spiritual growth. It is varied, flexible and its’ multiple layers mirror the complex nature of our very being.

“Holistic education is a philosophy of education based on the premise that each person finds identity, meaning and purpose in life through connections to the community, to the natural world, and to humanitarian values such as compassion and peace. Holistic education aims to call forth from people an intrinsic reverence for life and a passionate love of learning”  -Ron Miller

When growing a tree you would not attempt to fix a damaged or broken branch by taping in back together. Instead you would likely consider the ground in which is grows and nutrients in needs to flourish. Holistic education provides children with a space in which they can thrive while providing them with a freedom to be who they are meant to be in this world.

Some of the many benefits of this approach to learning includes:

Emotional Wellbeing and Resilience

How do we define success? The answer to this is often based on external factors such as wealth, material possession and career progression. However, someone could obtain all of these things and still lead an unhappy life. Our emotional wellbeing and ability to be resilient not only impact a child’s ability to learn in their schooling years, but their mental health more generally including the likelihood they will or will not develop depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns.

Our emotional wellbeing provides the tinted lense we wear in which we see our world.

Creativity to Drive Innovation

Creative thinking and the ability to be innovative is a skill widely rewarded and needed in adulthood. Some education systems discourage such thinking through rigid curriculums that place emphasis on defining what a child ‘needs’ to learn and how.

Allowing children to remain curious problem solvers supports the development of critical thinking while the very sense of curiosity drives learning as an intrinsic motivator. Learning occurs within the context of exploring and reflecting over the memorisation of facts.

Social Relationships and Community Connectedness

Alfie Kohn speaks of the importance of collaboration over competition. Contests, competitions, awards ceremonies, honour rolls and prizes for being the “best” all place an emphasis on excellence as winning. This sends a confusing message to children that, in order to do something well is to outdo others. The measure of our worth should not be held against the amount of people we have beaten. We are born worthy.

Connection and a sense of purpose can drive us. They ignite a light within that motivates us intrinsically, supports our emotional wellbeing and allows us to lead a life we love.

As human beings we thrive through connection. Seeing peers as collaborators and not obstacles serves to support human connection and actually increases the likelihood we are able to reach our own goals and attain new skills through the support and encouragement of community.

Social responsibility

It is now more widely accepted that our Earth is in need of help. We need to live more sustainably. Raising a generation of children who can support these changes cannot happen without first adopting a true appreciation and connection to our natural environments.

Holistic education supports environmental and humanitarian values such as compassion. We share this land with so many others and in some way we are all interconnected.

For example, gratitude can be fostered from deep understanding of what is involved in growing food when children are provided with a hands on learning experience to garden.

A child who feels connected to their environment is consequently more likely to treat it with the respect it deserves.

In providing and educational space that serves to meet the needs of the whole child, we are establishing foundations for them to lead a meaningful life. A life that gifts them with a freedom to be who they are meant to be, to follow their passions, to take awe in the natural world but also foster compassion to care for it and others.

Holistic education can be incorporated into mainstream schooling – but it something that needs to be advocated for in current systems. Change from the roots up is possible!

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