Providing opportunities for ‘free play’ for children Sam Crosby, Coordinator Education Services, Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan and Centennial Parklands
Introduction People often share their stories of childhood play experiences with me. It is not a random act. These are stories shared as part of a professional development training program or presentation for adult educators. It is one that I deliver on nature pedagogy and play as an educator for the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan. (ABGMA) As people recall their childhood adventures they spill tales of trees climbed, knees scraped, cubbies built and free range play. All are shared with passion, a cheeky grin and animated movements. This is usually before a drop in expression ... and I wait for it: ‘kids these days don’t get out enough.’ And it’s true. They really don’t. According to Nature Play WA, Australian children spend less time outside than our maximum security prisoners and only one in three children under the age of 12 have climbed a tree. These statistics and an increasing amount of press coverage and academic research point towards a worrying trend. Our children are less active, have declining literacy and cognitive abilities (such as problem solving, critical and imaginative thinking). They are less resilient and above all have a growing disconnect from the natural world, a phenomenon which even has a title these days. It is known as ‘nature deficit disorder’. An increase in screen time, over-scheduled weekdays and weekends, a real lack of access to
Building cubbies helps to engage the imagination and develop a sense of place. Photo: Sharon Robertson
places to play and adult fear of risk and injury, all contribute to this decline. This is leading many cultural organisations that engage with children to try to make up for this loss of a ‘free range’ childhood and aim to bring back some of these adventurous experiences.
the botanic gardener | ISS 47 March 2017