Stepping Stones Installs New Natural Playground

Childcare and Getting Back to Nature

Two centres within the Revelstoke Childcare Society (RCCS) are signed up for physical literacy, a pilot program aimed at  encouraging movement for both healthy lifestyle and emotional health.

Risky play is a large component of the concept of  physical literacy.

“Risky play is letting them climb a fence,” explains Nadine Ducharme, Infant and Toddler Educator at Corner Stones. “It used to be that we would stop them to keep them safe. Now we are letting them try. It gives the kids confidence. After a month of trying, children who used to be scared are succeeding are feeling proud of what they have accomplished. They are figuring out their capabilities for themselves and deciding what they can and cannot do.”

Risky play, she notes, offers transferable skills and strategies and confidence that will impact the children as they grow into adults.

One way the RCCS is implementing risky play is by incorporating a lot of natural elements into their playgrounds. At the centre located in Begbie View Elementary, it means using pallets and wood planks to build a pirate ship and using as much natural product outside as possible.

At the Stepping Stones centre behind the Okanagan College, an entire natural playground is being constructed. The largest element used is a massive tree trunk, roots and all, perched on the ground.

“The tree was removed during the installation of the water park at Farwell,” says Linda Chell, Executive Director of the RCCS. “Rob and Dave at Big Little Works saw it and asked if they could scoop it up and bring it to the new nature playground being constructed.”

The tree, now upside down, is now a central part of the new playground, which is funded in part by a New Spaces grant and the Columbia Basin Trust.

“The purpose of the space is to engage kids with play spaces that get them back to nature and playing with natural materials,” she says. “This kind of play allows for a different kind of imaginative play in children. There is a lot of research that says in addition to being aesthetically pleasing, is very calming for children.”

The RCCS’ new play space is set to open in mid June.

“We just need to grow some grass in a few places,” Chell laughs.

Next to the tree are two slides, nestled in the dirt, leading from the top of a dirt mound to the bottom. Trails and rocks are being shuffled around. The space beneath the tree branches that act as exposed roots beckons, one can picture children beneath it in their tree home.

This seems such a simple and wonderful idea. It will hopefully find itself being used in childcares across the province.

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