Dirty, Tired, and a Smile From Ear to Ear

Those are often the signs of a day well spent in the out of doors. Give yourself a minute to reminisce about the last time you remember playing outside. Got it? Now what did it look like? What season was it? Who were you with? What were you doing? Were you playing some sort of imaginative game that you can hardly even describe but in your memory it still makes perfect sense?

As adults, when we think back to our childhood, it is common to refer to them as the ‘good ole days.’ When we compare our childhood to the childhoods of children these days, generally speaking, they just aren’t the same. So why is that? What can we do to encourage and empower children to have play experiences similar to those we, our parents, or even our grandparents had?

The biggest red flag for most would be safety concerns. How can you give children the chance to be free/feel free while ensuring they are safe? Is the world truly less safe than when we were kids ourselves? Whether it is or not, the balancing of freedom and safety is a constant struggle for teachers and outdoor enthusiasts. Ultimately, we all want what is best for each child.

The Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority (GRCA) outdoor education teachers are OCT trained with a specialization in outdoor education. Teachers receive seasonal safety training and adhere to the accepted industry standards. During the GRCA’s Nature Nuts Summer Camp, there is a mix of fun hands-on educational structured activities and unstructured activities. Teaching staff strive to ensure kids get time to just be outside. Be outside in the sun. Outside in the rain. The wind. Just be outside. If they start to get restless, encouragement is made to either accept the quiet calm outdoors, to wander around and see what others are up to, or to make new discoveries walking in the woods.

GRCA teachers survey the area for potential safety concerns, and prior to the informal unstructured play, boundaries are made known to the children. Proper safety and supervision is provided in a variety of areas so kids can spread out and explore. If we can effectively supervise them while letting them get lost in their imaginations, it is a good day for all.

My hope is as educators, we can shift our perspective and storytelling from referring to the ‘good ole days’ to encouraging children to experience the wonders of a childhood through play. We must remind them that ‘the good ole days are still to come’.

If you or someone you know is looking to give a child a week filled with play, creative exploration and adventure, consider the GRCA’s Nature Nuts Summer Camp. Registration is open. Visit www.grca.on.ca and www.ganaraskaforestcentre.ca and look for the squirrel, or call 905.885.8173 to learn more.

Written by Megan Hennessy, GRCA Outdoor Education Instructor