It wasn't until I had my first child that I stumbled across the nature play / forest schooling movement and became deeply interested in the role of play in children's development. I learned to trust my child's innate curiosity and insatiable appetite to learn through play, and began to see how - as parents and educators - we often interfere with that process. I realised that pretty much everything I knew about parenting (and admittedly, it wasn't much!) had to be challenged.
After having spent countless hours studying and researching anything I could find on the topic, I decided to enrol in Forest School level 3 training. I remember feeling terrified. I was scared I would feel that I didn't belong there, with those 'outdoorsy people'. Instead I came back with the certainty that I had found my purpose.
In addition to the forest school/nature play ethos I also feel great affinity with the Waldorf philosophy, and I liberally sprinkle bits and pieces of their teachings into my outdoor "classroom" as well.
These days in my free time, you might find me running on the beach, reading 15 books all at once, writing short stories, whittling sticks to make magic wands, wandering in garden shops buying way too many plants, obsessing over my tiny veggie patch, and trying to learn to play the ukelele (with embarrassing results!)
I'm super grateful for the abundance and blessings in my life, and for the places that this journey has led me to. And I'm absolutely sure that smearing mud on my face, building fairy houses and playing hiding games in the bush with children is the best job ever.
Level 3 Forest School Leader
First Aid in an Education Setting, CPR, Anaphylaxis, Asthma
Current Working with Children clearance
Well, hello there. . . I'm Lidia, founder of Big Scrub Nature Play.
You might assume that since I've chosen this work, I was raised by hippie parents and spent my childhood days climbing trees and running through the woods.
But nope. That was definitely not the case. I was born and raised in a small town in the south of Italy and despite spending most of my time at the beach or by the sea, nature connection certainly wasn't a thing in my little suburban life.
In 2008 I moved to Australia and after the initial shock of discovering that half the creatures I encountered in the wild could potentially kill me, I started craving more time in nature - as a way to quiet my mind, find myself and sometimes heal my wounds.
During our programs children are encouraged to climb, crawl, clamber, scramble, dig, slither, sing, explore, run, roll, flap, feel, kick, play, patrol, build, imagine, make, ask, seek, chase, look and listen. We try to interfere as little as possible with their play, offering children the opportunity and time to imagine, discover, daydream or master new skills at their own pace.
Read our manifesto for children's play.
Our programs are guided by pedagogical principles that combine the Scandinavian forest school movement, adventure play and child-directed exploration and learning. By creating a gentle, nurturing yet stimulating environment, we support young children in their natural development. Our approach is:
Children are given the time and freedom to explore at their own pace, following their natural curiosity, instinct and ideas. There is no schedule, and children are unhurried in their explorations - in fact they are encouraged to take time to observe, reflect, make decisions and evaluate risks.
GENTLE AND RESPECTFUL
We encourage children to move gently in the natural environment, among their peers, and in their use of tools. We observe changes and transformations in the natural surroundings, learn about nature's rhythms and seasonal changes. Over time, children develop a deep sense of ownership and connection to that space. An increasing sense of security and self-confidence fosters their growing independence.
SUPPORTIVE OF RISK-TAKING AND ADVENTURE
Kids know how much risk they can handle, and since they are unhurried they have the invaluable opportunity to try and repeat until they can master a task. Adults offer support and supervision but there is minimal interference. This does not mean, of course, that we put our children at risk. We take safety very, very seriously.
At Big Scrub Nature Play, Nature is our curriculum! Each and every interaction that we have with the natural world has the potential to bring to light new discoveries, new connections and new possibilities. We are so lucky to live in this beautiful area, surrounded by nature, with access to rainforest, bush land, beach, ocean and lakes that provide endless opportunities to play and learn. And for this, we feel incredibly grateful and humble.
Childhood should be simple, unhurried and full of wonder.
Children are innately curious and driven to learn.
Children who play in nature will grow up to love and protect it.
Children of all backgrounds, cultures and abilities can learn and thrive in nature.
Children gain pride and independence when trusted and empowered.