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How Does Nature Makers Support My Child’s Development?

Hi I’m Ruth, Activity Provider for Nature Makers Tunbridge Wells. I am also a teacher with

nearly 20 years of experience and a bit of an obsession with the theory of how children

develop. I have taught early years for nearly all my career and it’s safe to say I love it.


I often get asked by parents:

“Is Nature Makers suitable for my child?”


If you ask an Early Childhood Specialist, they will tell you children learn through play. All play

is important, but different types of play meets different needs. It is important to remember

that children don’t differentiate between learning and play -it’s all play to them, so let's keep it fun!


“But they can’t do all the activities!” - Scaffolding

While we try very hard to ensure everyone can participate in all aspects of a Nature Makers

class, sometimes a child may find some of the activities challenging. This is actually a good

thing.

A child will still get great benefit from watching other people and receiving help with

the skills they have not mastered yet, as well as participating in the talk around the activity.

Next time they encounter the task, they will then be able to draw on this experience and

participate more independently. This is called scaffolding. Scaffolding is a really important

part of how children learn.

Lev Vygotsky suggested that learning is a cultural process and that children learn from observing and interacting with a “more knowledgeable other” - in Nature Makers this is often an older child or an adult.

We all need some “scaffolding” when learning something new and making and doing alongside an older child or trusted adult is one of the ways that Nature Makers can support your child’s development.

You just covered your beautiful picture with black!” Schematic Play

Have you ever been creating with your child either at Nature Makers or at home only to find

that the second you turn your back, they have painted over their picture, or dismantled the

model they were making? It’s infuriating isn’t it?

Many children exhibit schemas or recurring patterns in their play; common schemas are

trajectory, transportation, connection and enveloping, to name just a few. So how does

Nature Makers support schematic play? Our curriculum encourages children to explore their

surroundings and our activities are often open to different interpretations. We believe that it

is important to give children the opportunity to follow their own lines of inquiry. Whilst we

sometimes supply templates and printouts as a guide, we always encourage children to approach an activity in a way that works for them. Occasionally that means letting children

paint over or scrunch up a masterpiece! The key is to be quick and take a picture of it before

they do!


“All they do is collect sticks and leaves.” Loose Parts Play

My daughter collects things. Once I found about 30 daisies that had gone mouldy in her coat pocket. Often the temptation is to make her put whatever she has gathered back; however, when I remember to ask her why she wants them - her answer is

usually “I want to make something with them.” When my daughter is collecting things, she

has seen something in them that I as a busy adult have missed. She is very creative with her

treasures and has made some genuinely lovely objects out of some of her finds.

Being outside provides endless opportunities for loose part play. By giving our children these opportunities we are encouraging them to be truly creative, to see potential in a mundane object and to explore this potential through the art of play.

“My child is a different person when we get outside.” Connection with Nature and the

benefit of being in nature.

“Connecting with nature should be part of every child’s life as it has the potential to aid

nature’s revival while benefiting the child.”

Nature Makers sessions are usually held outside in green spaces. There is a wealth of

research that suggests being in nature and interacting with it in a positive way is beneficial

for children and adults mental and physical health.

If you do one thing this week, join your local Nature Makers class and experience the

benefits of engaging positively with nature for yourself.

If you would like to read up on any of the theory mentioned here then here are some starting links:

https://www.onehundredtoys.com/understanding-schema-play-in-toddlers/

https://www.simplypsychology.org/zone-of-proximal-development.html

http://www.playscotland.org/wp-content/uploads/1-Loose-Parts-Play.pdf

https://www.rspb.org.uk/globalassets/downloads/documents/positions/education/the-impact-of-childrens-connection-to-nature.pdf

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