Lockdown is a great opportunity to break from routine, says nature play expert Nicole Sadlier, and make time for family fun.
“Although it’s an uncertain and stressful time for many, it’s also a time when families can create fond memories,” Ms Sadlier says.
“If we’re lucky, our kids will look back and say, ‘remember that time when I didn’t go to school for weeks, but we did all the cool stuff instead?’
“Some of the best memories our children will have will be of times they did silly things, like a back to front day with dessert for breakfast and eggs for dinner. Bring that playful energy into everything you do. This can be a more relaxing time for everyone, and a really fun time, as opposed to being stressful.”
Ms Sadlier is the creator of the Meet & Move program, which helps families with young children increase their active play and improve their knowledge of Canberra’s great green spaces and nature reserves.
Play is vital in children’s development.
“It’s really important because it’s how they learn about the world, and also how they fit into the world. Generations ago, kids were really mimicking adults and learning skills, such as how to use tools. As kids matured, they developed more skills and had access to different tools. They then joined adults more and used these skills from play for work.”
Ms Sadleir recommends keeping play simple in lockdown.
“I’d love more people to use what’s at hand in more creative ways… loose parts and basic items like balls, bats, skipping ropes, and chalk are great. Kids can keep adding to the play by being more imaginative, changing up the rules, adding elements of challenge or risk, or just plain silliness. Use ropes, sheets, water, sticks, and let them use their imagination. One moment they’re fishing the next moment they’re doing something else with it.”
Ms Sadlier recommends these tips for keeping play simple and fun during lockdown:
Make a mess. “Simple things you can do in your backyard include getting some old pots and pans, a bucket of water and soil so they can make mud pies and have water fights. Letting kids get really messy and muddy is a sensory experience for them. It’s a great way for kids to be able to yell and carry on and get really dirty,” says Ms Sadlier.
Neighbourhood play. “The hour of exercise time is great for family active time,” she says.
“You don’t have to walk far with kids. Explore your neighbourhood with a coin walk. Let the toss of the coin decide which way you go. Head to the local oval, bike ride, or have a mini nature adventure if you’re near the bush.
“Older kids could go for a nature walk and when they return draw a map of the area to help them think about the environment in different ways. Taking a magnifying glass and checking out small things in the environment connects your children to the natural world and slows them down.”
Balloons. Balloons are fun, loose items that you can buy at your local supermarket.
“If you’ve got balloons in your house, kids can get really imaginative,” says Ms Sadlier.
“When the weather’s not great, and children are playing inside, hang a balloon at different heights from every door in the house so the kids have to jump up to hit the balloon.”
Ice Play. Another great activity is playing with ice.
“Make really big ice blocks. Give the kids rolling pins or wooden spoons to smash them up. They can make ice sculptures from ice frozen in muffin tins,” she says.
Nicole Sadlier is a member of the Bluearth team, whose mission is to improve the health and wellbeing of all Australians by making movement a part of everyday life. To learn more about Meet & Move and get daily play-at-home lockdown ideas, visit http://facebook.com/groups/MeetandMove.