Friday, July 25, 2014
Friday, June 20, 2014
Thursday, May 29, 2014
My own children, fortunate to grow up in the same neighbourhood as both their parents, found their own nature play spaces, even though many of our own were now sub-divided and out of bounds. Their roaming spaces were smaller and more play occurred in back yards, but their was still plenty of dirt, mud and risk taking going on unseen by parental eyes. Cubby houses, mud pie creations and endless games of imagination went on from dawn to dusk in the summer holidays and on weekends and school days when increasing extracurricular activities permitted.
Another generation is now growing up in that very same neighbourhood! My daughter, her husband and daughter have recently moved in with us for the foreseeable future. Where before, it was a part-time space on the days I cared for her while mum is at work, our back yard is now a full-time play space for my 13 month old granddaughter Charlie. And while we are still blessed with green spaces close at hand, even more areas have been sub-divided for housing and increasing fear of predatory adults means unsupervised play is rare now - and likely to be rarer by the time Charlie is of an age to gain such freedom.
There is concern around the world about children's reduced access to natural place spaces and free play outdoors. Our idyllic local environment - where we can access the beach, bushland and rural spaces within a five minute drive from our front door and have an abundance of community spaces many parts of the world could only dream about - is not to be taken for granted. We need to ensure all children have access to outdoor play.
Our family attend a weekly playgroup Nature Kids, uniquely using local natural spaces as its venues and using the environment to let our children play and learn. Charlie began attending the group before she was 9 months old and is thriving on the experience. This has motivated me to further encourage outdoor play at home by establishing an age-appropriate mini-natural space for her play in our garden.
I knew from the experiences Charlie enjoys at Natured Kids some of the elements I wanted to include in her play space - and Pinterest helped me develop those concepts into practical ideas. Rather than list all the sources of inspiration here, hop over to my Pinterest Board Natural Backyard Play Spaces and have a look.
The obvious requirements were: sand, water, dirt, mud, stones, sound, light and air. And art.
|A blank slate after my wonderful backyard blitz in January|
Bricks were lifted and a retaining wall put in place to both level the space and accommodate the sand area. A swing set was bought second-hand, as were a toddler slide, a small playhouse, water-play table and some child-sized chairs. Although this is a natural play-space, some plastic is needed and buying it used reduces the impact on the environment. As she grows, some of these will be replaced or no longer needed and passed on.
|Enjoying her new space already - and it isn't yet complete!|
|Not one to pass up an opportunity, the bricks were barely lifted and the play began!|
However, my vision was affirmed as Charlie took delight in playing outside at EVERY opportunity! I began to see my winter huddled under an umbrella, rugged up and pushing the swing endlessly! Her enjoyment pushed me to keep going until the full dream was realised. I drew my vision to share with the family:
And so - finally - I can call it done (well, tomorrow will see a final coat of blackboard paint and a tree stump has an appointment with a chain saw to create the stools). There will obviously be additions as they come our way and evolution over time. But for now -
|All the pieces in their places|
|One happy toddler!!!|
I hope we have inspired you to give up a little bit of outdoor space for child's play. We live on an average suburban block and this space is maybe the size of a single garage. We have spent a couple of hundred dollars on the retaining wall, sand and blackboard. And converted a disappointing space into one with real purpose.
And finally, as autumn tumbles into winter, a little glimpse into other areas of our garden which make me smile right now.
|In Granny's Garden magic happens|
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
As a family that practice many facets of natural-styled parenting - full term breastfeeding, babywearing, co-sleeping, baby-led weaning, modern cloth nappies and more - we have noticed that whatever group of mums we join, some familiar faces keep popping up!
In fact - the wide variety of online and face to face groups supporting our style of child raising is almost too great. Connecting with like-minded parents relies on word of mouth and a good deal of time searching Facebook and Google. Too often, individual mums feel isolated and unsupported among more mainstream parenting groups and family circles and unaware of a parallel community where they would feel so much at home.
When a mother I knew reached out to find a new mums group when one wasn't facilitated by her local council and another confessed her group had never really come together for that face to face support we know is important, I offered to hook them both up with other mums in the region looking for the same thing. A few status shares later, with several mums confessing they were in the same boat, I decided to put into action an idea that had been brewing and a new Facebook group was born.
I believe community is essential for mothering and the lack of a traditional village leads to many of the problems we face today. For parents for are swimming upstream against the norm, this rings true even moreso.
Southern Natural Parenting Network is intended to connect women with groups, services and resources which support their parenting choices. From neighbourhood mums groups to larger organisations, its purpose is to make those connections easier.
Raising the adults of the future is a responsibility of the whole of society. This is one way I can do my part.
Southern Natural Parenting Network
Monday, February 17, 2014
This huge leap in awareness is a total surprise. For nine months in the womb and around nine months out, the mother is just like some parts of the body: you can't always see them, but they are there all the time.
Realisation that in fact, the mother could abandon the baby at any moment is a huge shock. And leads to the only reassurance possible: constantly keep the mother in sight. Suddenly, baby is no longer content to lie awake in bed, play on the floor or even be held by other people unless her mother is in close physical and visual contact.
Strap on the velcro - where you go, baby goes too!
Charlie has been in the midst of this development stage for a while now. At ten months, she is working hard on walking and it won't be long until she moves to the next stage of management: following mum everywhere!
Because we knew Kaitlyn would have to return to work at some time in the second half of Charlie's first year, she and I have worked hard to cement a strong attachment between Charlie and I so being in my care without mum would be less distressing. This has worked just as we hoped - to the extent that Charlie applies the same separation anxiety to me moving out of sight as she does with Kaitlyn! Even when Kaitlyn is right there beside her!!
We have learned it is sudden, unannounced movement which particularly triggers the momentary distress and that making eye contact, saying bye bye and waving allow her to prepare for the separation: even if just walking into the other room to get something. Talking to her from the other room is also helpful and reassuring.
Interestingly, Charlie is quite as ease with Kaitlyn leaving to go to work and sometimes barely interupts what she is doing when she returns! Provided she is either involved in - or unaware of - the moment of separation, being apart is not a problem.
Other developmental changes occur around the same time that are related to this awareness of being out of sight but not gone forever: Peak-a-boo becomes THE game for babies at this stage, so they comfortably see someone disappear and reappear over and over, learning this is normal and reliable. Waving bye bye reinforces people go away and waving hello that they return. And the awareness that something out of sight still exists means looking into bags, boxes and buckets for toys is meaningful - out of sight isn't out of mind.
Babywearing comes into its own during this stage if you wish to do anything without holding a baby who won't leave your side. Taking them with you when you shower, use the toilet, collect the mail, load the washing and all the other quick tasks you could previously leave them playing while you go, now only get done with them in your arms or at your feet.
It is a frustrating stage at times, but necessary for your baby to move into more independence as a toddler. Soon, that separation will be a bonus for your baby, because life becomes a lot more interesting when mum isn't constantly by your side!!