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Setting Up Life Cycle Play Spaces

Combining a range of new and existing materials helps us to strike the balance that reflects complex concepts of nature, much like what happens in our human experience in which we are constantly evolving in order to grow.

Written by: Early Educational Advisor - Jo Harris  

Setting Up Your Life Cycle Discovery Play Spaces 

Teaching children about our natural world can often feel abstract, but by considering our daily routines with thought for the effect they can potentially have on those we share it with becomes more simplified. Naturally curious, it is not too difficult to capture their interest and participation, and ultimately carry those dispositions for life. 

Responding to meet the needs of children through a developmentally appropriate and well-planned program, includes providing activities that encourage exploration, investigation, and testing. This can be made easier with materials that are readily available and easy to add to different play spaces.

Purchasing resources that have been made using by-products of rubbish creates an opportunity to reflect and delve deeper into the need to give new life to old objects rather than adding to waste that is being added to every day, potentially threatening the quality of life for us all and our planet.

Combining a range of new and existing materials helps us to strike a balance that reflects complex concepts of nature, much like what happens in our human experience in which we are constantly changing and evolving to grow. 

Easy ways to simplify your Play Spaces 

With just a few basic resources it is possible to replicate those found in nature all around us. When setting up play spaces that relate to the cycles of life it is important to choose materials that are authentic to create the provocation for authentic learning.

  1. Curating a collection based on neutral tones that can be used repeatedly is a positive way of acknowledging the inherent value of what is available from nature. It is an ideal starting point to talk about the conservation of the environment and the importance of its delicate ecosystems.
  2. Including a range of figurines of bugs, insects, birds and other replicas in different sizes can be used in many experiences to explore the diversity of the natural world and the habitats they live in. 
  3. Including wooden trays, boxes or baskets makes it possible to stage them at different heights and angles from the perspective of a child, making it easier for them to engage in extended play. 

These could easily be filled with sand, stones, leaves, and other textured materials that could be set up in a variety of places, both indoors and out.


Enhancing your Sensory Play offerings

Each material has its unique properties and qualities and they each have the potential to spark many different reactions within play. Selecting man-made, recycled, and natural materials and combining them can encourage longer and more responsiveness to meet the individual needs of each child.

Materials like felt and smooth pieces of wood may encourage quieter and softer interactions which are ideal for solitary play spaces where children are developing relationship skills. These can add an extra dimension to a play space by giving it context while creating another opportunity to explore how nature works in harmony mirroring native flora and fauna. 

Searching for leaves, bark, stones, and branches to fill baskets on a nature walk or treasure hunt could give a more specific focus while providing an opportunity to discuss properties of sorting, counting, and classification. Encouraging children to share their discoveries and intentions with natural materials is key to respecting and handling them within play and learning. 

Extending interactions with nature within everyday learning

Exploring nature does not have to be limited to outdoor play, as there are opportunities embedded within daily routines. 

When children are eating, discussions could lead to exploring concepts of where food comes from, how it is grown, or how any waste is managed afterward through the recycling process. To make these practices more meaningful and engaging, (ultimately bringing cycles to the fore) setting up small composting or rubbish sorting bins can be made simpler to teach by playing a recycling game, completing a puzzle that shows the life cycle of a plant, or reading books that focus on sustainability first. Additional information is available in the Bellbird Resource Centre.

Additional suggestions that promote Discovery and Exploration: 

Introducing an interactive board with real specimens housed within transparent blocks that show the life cycles of animals at each stage encourages kinaesthetic and visual learners to learn through touch and sight.

Weighing, measuring, and balancing natural objects with scales, drawing or painting a tray of plants or flowers that have sprouted from carefully tended seeds, or discovering which animals, insects, and minibeasts lay eggs from pouring over books are all activities that promote care and engagement with the living world. 

Putting together a Discovery Bag with a few items that can extend play within the outdoor program and might include a bug viewer, magnifying lens, tape measure, ruler and telescope invites children to take their time to explore the natural world around them.

Investing in a few selected, high-quality materials that can be used in a variety of ways complements those found in our everyday learning environments. Check out our range of bio-diverse and sustainable resources that support teaching and learning that may otherwise seem difficult to explain. 

Concepts become much more accessible through selecting a few key objects paired with others that welcome curious and excited children to learn in their way and time, much like the way we enter the world as living beings.

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