At the weekend we were treated to a special kind of Wildlife Explorer session. A session offering led activity for those who wanted it and imaginative, creative play in the woods for those who found themselves drawn to the natural playground around them.
Jenny and Sophie took the group of Wildlife Explorers to a small clearing in the woods, with the aim of creating a future 'woodland craft' site. They suggested some 'clearance' activity for those who fancied pulling up the brambles, followed by making woodland tools ready for future sessions. Some of the group selected and felled a small hazel tree, from which they went on to make mallets. In the meantime, a number of children found themselves drawn by the environment around them, ambling off in different directions to tree climb, build dens and construct dams, in what appeared to be their own little woodland world.
The benefits of non-structured activity are endless, and where better to be able to do this than in the ultimate natural playground of the woods? It doesn't need to be a big space, but it does need to be, within reason, unrestricted and free. Where, under the watchful eye of people who, though careful of a child's safety and wellbeing, believe in allowing children to develop the essential life skill of risk assessing for themselves.
So many of our children's activities are structured, from their school day through to evening and weekend clubs. There is so little time left for them to emerse themselves in an activity that only their mood and environment has chosen for them. We are better at providing this for toddlers, but once a child reaches 9, 10, 11 years and up, we often forget it's importance and significance.