I’ve spent a fair bit of time working on a lovely post about numeracy and play at Flinders that has been discarded because in Adelaide it has finally started to RAIN! So we have begun implementing our winter play program.
Now this is all becoming very familiar for the educators here at Flinders, but I think I had forgotten for a minute what a significant part of our program winter play is for the children. Especially the children who have only just started.
So I help the five or so children who are ready to play outside get into their rain suits and put on their gumboots, get into mine, and off we go. As we we stand out in the rain, hearing it fall onto our hoods, I notice one child, Connor, looking at me intently. “It’s all wet” he says. “It is. It’s raining” I reply. “Do we need to wipe it down?” he wonders, and I reply; “No, you are in your rain suit, you will stay dry.” “Can I go in the sand pit?” he asks, eyes wide. “Of course! You can go anywhere you like!” I tell him. “Can I jump in the puddles?” he continues, and I nod again, smiling. With a swift intake of breath, Connor heads down the creek bed and straight to the edge of a puddle. He jumps, landing with a splash, and the look on his face is complete and utter delight.
And this is the moment I realise again how special it is to have the winter play program. Connor is so thrilled, delighted and excited by the possibility that he can play in the rain, sit in the wet sand and jump in the puddles. This is not the kind of thing we do all that often in Australia, certainly not in Adelaide, where the winters are perceived as horrible and something to wait out until the sun returns in summer. But really, in the grand scheme of things, Adelaide is not that wet and that cold. Our winter days are generally between 14 and 18 degrees, not in the minuses. We don’t have snow, high levels of wind chill or frequent severe weather warnings. We are just generally accustom to celebrating our summers and mourning the arrival of winter.
But at what cost?
When I saw the look on Connor’s face, I realised what a significant moment this was for him; perhaps the first time he had played in the rain. A week ago, a puddle was an idea, or something to be avoided, and wet sand was only achieved by the addition of water from the tap. Now, puddles are a place to jump in, splash about, collect things, float things, peer into and seek reflections, and sand gets so wet when it rains that it turns into mud! He is developing a deep connection with natural phenomena, the seasons, and his environment. He is learning where water comes from, how gravity works, what floats and what sinks, and what happens when you go down a wet slide. He is building a strong connection with his environment.
The Early Years Learning Framework states;
“Outdoor learning spaces are a feature of Australian learning environments. They offer a vast array of possibilities not available indoors. Play spaces in natural environments include plants, trees, edible gardens, sand, rocks, mud, water and other elements from nature. These spaces invite open-ended interactions, spontaneity, risk-taking, exploration, discovery and connection with nature. They foster an appreciation of the natural environment, develop environmental awareness and provide a platform for ongoing environmental education.” (pg.15-16)
All of this was evident to me in the moments I watched Connor in the puddle. He was surrounded by trees, rocks, mud and water. He was spontaneously engaged with jumping in a puddle, which was a risk he was comfortable taking. He was discovering what happened when it rains. He was connecting with nature as he felt the rain falling, and reached out to touch it with his hands.
It was truly one of those moments where I think I am blessed to have the opportunity to be an early childhood educator, and to provide children with the kind of environments and experiences that they may not get anywhere else. This is why I do what I do.