Creator of the BushPlay Project Guidebook, Explorer, Nature Lover, Father.
Surrounded by mountains on all three sides, natural beauty is not hard to come by in the aptly named Mount Beauty. The seasons traverse and change with distinction in a way that can leave a writer lost for words and a painter unsure of how to capture the sheer splendour of it all. Replication or interpretation is hard to come by. A towering Mt Bogong is draped with snow in the winter months, and the trees dance in a collage of vibrant colours in the middle of autumn. Small townships dwell among the state and national parkland of North East of Victoria. Jarrod Paine is a local in the area. An outdoor enthusiast, he has upmost appreciation for Mother Nature working her magic out in the wide-open hinterland.
“I love a good spring rainfall too seeing the rivers swell and burst their banks, and then in true spring hearing the frogs come alive with mating calls and the sweet melodies of the birds.”
Jarrod use to enjoy wintertime the most when the snow would silently fall in a soft glisten, but nowadays, with two little children under his wing, he enjoys the variety of all seasons, seeing things through a new perspective as his kids curiously make new discoveries before his very eyes.
Jarrod is the founder of the BushPlay Project. He began the Kiewa Wild Things Bush Playgroup 2.5 years ago and is leading the way, providing that natural goodness that all kids need to develop and grow.
“Wild things is about little people needing little adventures and on the ground this means some natural space or parkland away from manmade structures,” said Jarrod.
“A suburban block size of space is enough to engage the senses and imaginations of our dear little people and we can find these in most towns and suburbs of Victoria. Google maps is also a great way to find natural spaces in your area.”
So it seems a simple recipe, playing outdoors, exploring nature, taking time to smell the roses. Why aren’t more of us doing it?
For some city dwellers, it is tricky to find a place close by, and across the board, there are trepidations about the elements, dangers, hazards and mess of outdoor play.
Jarrod reminds us that there is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.
“We need to connect children to nature in the essential 4-7 year old period, empowering parents and guardians to lead and support this connection and in a way rekindling their connection or growing one of their own. Get dirty with the kids. Be full of wonder for what could live in that hollow or why that mushroom colony lives on that log, but not that one.”
Studies continue to mount, evidencing the developmental benefits of outdoor play.
Jarrod has made a nifty guide to assist parents and guardians in their understanding and management of the small risks of bush play.
“We know risks exist everywhere in our lives and we manage them daily. Sometimes we don’t know the risk or how easy it can be to manage the risk in a new place, be it a new country or a new natural environment. I hope to help reduce some fears and assist families who were previously worried to spend time in the bush (particularly summer time) and encourage them to get outdoors and start a Wild Things bush playgroup.”
Bush play provides a realm of infinite possibilities and is known to improve movement and balance skills in young children. Nature rewards curiosity and allows ones imagination to be stirred and animated. Jarrod observes that, “Bush play also aids children to grow independence and connection to nature and living things. They grow resilience through prickles and stings and strengthen through building and stacking.”
Incidental developmental milestones are reached continuously while the children race through the grass, jump over puddles and explain how the magpie pecking into the soil is looking for worms which they love to eat. What is more, is the benefit to adults. A brisk 30 minute walk works wonders on the health of an adult’s body and the wellbeing of their mind.
Jarrod said that he has many a frank conversation about children and parenting during his years of attending traditional playgroups. With the implementation of bush playgroup, this connect has enriched further as the conversation roams into philosophical musings about nature, sharing fears and ways of making nature safe for all, young and old.
“Wild Things Bush Playgroups are as much about exposing children to nature as they are about re-connecting parents and guardians to nature and each other.”
There is something about the peace and quiet of nature that conjures up candour in humans. People are more inclined to open up and share their thoughts after a spell of considered pause in amongst the flora and fauna of our natural surrounds. Perhaps this is due to the perspective nature bestows upon those who enter and just be; be present. You can yell out loud. Run. Imagine. Sit and reflect. Tell our secrets to the wind. We are but small and flimsy compared to the towering trees, fast flowing river and gusty breeze- and there is nothing quite as blissful as the smell of fresh air with the kind sun warming our backs.
As Jarrod attests, “Nature is the best workplace in the world! It changes daily and by the hour. It wears its mood in the sky and gives us fair warning of its changes. With this we can plan and take our place sheltering from its extreme weathers and basking in its calm time, but all the while enjoying being out there and connected to it.”
Jarrod is grateful to be able to use his passion to engage youth in the awe and wonder of natural landscapes. He endeavours to assist people in developing a lifelong understanding and connection with nature.
“With the end goal being, that they too care for it.”
The cycle of our natural world has at times been preserved and damaged. As humankind strives for progress and betterment, the impact to our natural reserves and wildlife can be irreparable. It is important to nurture the living earth that so intricately links cause and effect. From the bird pollinating our trees, to the rain watering the vegetation, a delicate rhythm keeps our world existing. We as humans, have an indelible bond with the land and the animals and all of the tiny little organisms that keep things in order. We too gather meaning for the world around us, especially in childhood.
“A career in nature is not one in pursuit of riches of the dollars and cents kind; it is filled with the currency of smiles, broadening of minds and connections. Nature needs its champions, and with continued hard work, innovation and passion, one day I hope to be referred to as one of these people.”
One day, we hope the children of today are championing the future health of the planet. As one of our all-time great thinkers said, “Look deeper into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” – Albert Einstein
Article by Sinead Halliday