The Nature Explore Classroom at
Mrs. Sandy’s Family Child Care
I continually make changes to my indoor program, adding things to it to make it unique and a place that kids enjoy coming to every day.
I recently transformed my indoor program and included a larger variety of natural items. I didn’t want it to continue to look like a page out of a catalog. These changes brought out more curiosity and creativity from the kids. My outdoor play area was a struggle. I just didn’t like the space and it looked too small. I didn’t feel like I was playing with the kids, just providing them with materials needed outdoors according to rules, standards and regulations. I have always found ways to have a variety of activities and areas outdoors. I made it work, but honestly, I just didn’t enjoy being outside. When I decided to become Nature Explore Certified and began to create my area around nature and not plastic play equipment, I began to get very excited.
I discovered that space wasn’t the issue, but that I was using the wrong materials and equipment. For the first time in many years, I enjoy going outdoors with the kids. I am still able to incorporate the areas needed, have ample space and it’s visually appealing. I began to build things and set up the environment to allow ample opportunities to explore, get dirty, and have fun. Each area may be designated with signs for a specific purpose, but they use those items in so many areas.
My “hut” is our designated gathering area, but at times it becomes their fort, or they gather toys inside, or they sit quietly to read a book or relax. The tree cookies for building become “pancakes”. They count to see how many “pancakes” they can stack on their plate. When it topples over, they use reasoning skills to figure out why it fell and how they can make it taller and stronger. The best part is that I don’t have to tell them what they can and can’t use materials for. Natural items are open-ended and allow them to use their imagination and instincts.
Many things are built from scratch and many items have been donated. I will always add to the space and make changes. Seeing the excitement and wonder in the kid’s eyes when they play outdoors gives me validation that I am doing something right. It’s a place where they can explore, problem solve, relax, dance, run, build, be artistic, work together, play alone, investigate, examine, dig, learn, be curious, find bugs, play in the water and simply be a kid. It’s a place I now like to enjoy with them.
I would like to thank my family, my daycare families and my colleagues for all their help and support to create an outdoor classroom.
Springfield, IL 62702