She started drawing in the wet sand, placing her found items in just the right way. As she began, I walked away. This was not my experience, it was hers and it’s not my right to interpret what she is doing.
New Amplify guest writer Linda Tandy is a nature based educator with Inspired Family Day Care (FDC). Today Linda shares the philosophy she applies to her River Kindy, around allowing children to discover and to ‘be’, and what happens when someone says ‘I’m bored’.
My passion is seeing children doing what children do best: being children in an authentic and unhurried way, and following their natural instincts to create the magic we know as childhood.
Child-led and resourced play is, to me, a child’s natural right. It is in their rhythm and instincts to play and be childlike. If allowed space to do so, children initiate and follow their own path and nature provides the resources they need.
Alternatively, when a child’s time is too structured and filled with things to do it can inhibit their ability to dream.
My favourite place to take the children to be free is the Bega River. This is where I run my River Kindy. All the children look forward to our times at the ‘Ribba’.
The river’s beautiful banks and wildlife are always changing. Some parts of the year she’s a raging beast. Sometimes she’s a shy nymph doling out tiny handfuls of water. At the river, we learn about the seasons and the circle of life.
The river has so much to teach us and she supplies everything we need. When we come together at our river, that’s where the biggest learning happens.
No one tells the children how to play. In fact, I try to stay well out of the way of their play/work as I don’t want to adultify it. The children come to me or call out to me if they need help. You could say it’s the perfect play space.
But I’m bored
However, I expect a first-time explorer to the river to get bored. I actually look forward to hearing the complaint as I know what comes next!
Once the mind is set free – with boredom – amazing and miraculous things occur. This is when we can give a child the opportunity to ‘settle into themselves’ and provide their own stimuli.
Boredom is valuable.
Boredom is possibilities.
“Have we lost the art of wonder when we have the answers immediately available?”
Nature washes away the stress and flashing lights of technology that a child finds that primal instinctual part of their brain. While technology can be a great tool for education, I strongly believe it should only be an adjunct to learning and not the first port of call.
Have we lost the art of wonder when we have the answers immediately available? I remember wondering where did the sun and moon go? I thought about that question all weekend because there was no possibility of an instant answer. It was those bored moments in childhood that saw some of my most creative theories come into play.
Recently I watched a child at the river find her place and space. She mentioned how ‘bored’ she was many (so many!) times.
I have known this child for a few months now. I know how observant she is and how she notices things. She shows an interest in ephemeral art (also called temporary art) and I have seen her create works during our nature walks.
So I sat at the edge of the river with sticks and stones and leaves. I waited until I knew she was watching me, and I started constructing a piece in the sand. It did not take long for her to notice.
We didn’t exchange words. She observed. That’s her style. Off she then went with her boredom forgotten and a task in her mind – her own task, her own mind.
She was very purposeful, looking for just the right rock, stick, stone or leaf and just the right place to work. This took quite a bit of search and effort. Then she started drawing in the wet river sand and placing her found items in just the right way.
As she began, I walked away. This was not my experience, it was hers. It’s not my right to interpret what she is doing. If and when she wants to, she will initiate the conversation with me or I will hear her telling someone else.
Or maybe I will never know? I am comfortable with that as it is my job to facilitate opportunities. What comes from that is the child’s intellectual property.
My hope is that this experience has opened her mind to the possibilities for future visits to our river and for discovering ephemeral art in other settings.
It is not only children playing alone who can be struck by lack of ideas, and inspired by nature.
This next example of boredom and nature inspiring children came from a group I had last year. These children were mixed ages, three to five years. They were experienced at being in nature but rarely collaborated on projects. They were all physically capable and familiar with each other.
The river had been flooded, preventing our visit until the waters had subsided. The day finally came where I assessed that it was safe to return but I told the children that we could look at the changes the flood had created, the water may not be low enough yet play in. They were disappointed but prepared.
When we arrived, the group just drifted around not really focusing on anything. They had no enthusiasm for the visit. I did my usual check on the water level and found it to be running clear and knee height at its deepest so we could indeed venture in.
The change in the children was immediate. They became chatty and engaged with each other. One of the older children found a large long branch. He organised the others to help him heft the branch to where they wanted it.
They then found another and another branch. All of varying sizes and shapes. I heard the eldest child exclaim, ‘Let’s make a pirate ship!’
The others agreed and then everyone became involved and invested in finding parts for the ship.
One said, ‘A pirate ship needs a rudder and steering things too!’
Another said, ‘Let’s make the front floaty like a real ship goes on the waves.’
The development of the pirate ship went on at every visit we made for 3 weeks. With each week the group collaborated so the ship was always being added to or reconfigured. It was another amazing example of letting the children be so they could do what children do best
Honoured and inspired
I am truly honoured to witness these moments.
To see that little girl switch from the possibilities of boredom to the opening of her mind and imagination in ephemeral art. To see the group of bored children become a determined ship-building pirate crew!
I am infinitely blessed to see these opportunities in the children I work with almost daily.
I’m not sure any other job compares. To be free to follow along in a child’s journey. To watch them grow, delight and yes even be bored in the most perfect of settings. This to me is what nature based play is about: the child!
You can read more of Linda’s observations on her blog, Sunshine and Puddles.
Linda Tandy will return to Amplify with an article about how she has evolved her River Kindy program. It’s an inspiring practice that is based on far more than risk assessment but also includes secure attachment, developing resilience, and a high level of trust between educator, children and parents – as well as the educator’s trust in themselves. Make sure you’re subscribed on your preferred email address so you don’t miss it!
Meet the author
Hi! I'm Linda Tandy and I live in Bega NSW. I have been working in Family Day Care for around 15 years and the last five years in Nature Based Family Day Care. This is where I found my love. My primary interest is children being given the opportunity to have a joyous and adventurous childhood where they are free to direct and guide their own path. To see themselves as capable and valuable individuals that hopefully become vibrant and confident adults. Nature Based Family Day Care makes sense to me. Traditional Family Day Care is a great model for Early Childhood but Nature Based Care makes it even better. Six or so years ago I found myself very disillusioned in my role and felt it was either time for me to move on or find a different way to run my Family Day Care Service. I wasn’t happy with the lack of authentic opportunities given to the children or the fact they could not drive their own learning in a way that was natural for them. After all weren’t we given the opportunity as children to run free and find our own fun? I believed even then that children are naturally drawn to risk and adventure. I’m so pleased I found this current model that gives children back their childhood.