In what I feel is a beautiful synchronicity, I get to see the preschool children every week from my study window. All that work we have put into making Forest Club happen has come to fruition. The funding and the training and the search for a place that the children could make their own. Most Thursdays, I sit in my cocoon and write, while the children play over on a piece of land that a friend has kindly let us use. I fill a page with words, while the children get to build dens and make fires. (How is this fair?) They sing songs while sitting on tree stumps. They play on a rope swing that hangs from a tree. They carry big sticks safely around without tripping. There is a toilet space in the trees, a kelly kettle and a trailer. Sometimes I see them put up a tarpaulin to shelter from the rain. This makes me remember how it felt to be young and fearless and happy to brave the world.
Yesterday I went over to join the children at Forest Club, because I needed to chat to our setting leader. We wandered down to the end of the piece of land, through overhanging bushes and up a steep muddy bank. All around us, the world was alive with the sound of birds and hidden creatures. She told me about a child who had, at first, held arms out to be picked up the slope. But with lots of support and encouragement, the child had found a way up the bank. The child dug hands into mud to get to the secret world where there are old stone bridges and ditches, and a tree trunk fallen on the ground. This is why play is so important. Because it allows children to develop many areas of learning, all at the same time. Resilience, risk, safety, speaking, listening, team work, turn taking, following rules, singing, nature, science, language, physical strength, stamina and coordination. It is an experience with huge value for learning. So if you ever have any doubts about why play matters, then please swing on by our setting. I’ll have to send you the password, though, because we’re The Secret Forest Club. 🙂