Temperatures may have plummeted to 10 degrees this month but, rain or shine, outdoor play is still a daily activity at Gowrie Victoria’s early learning services. During winter, children arrive with gumboots and raincoats, ready to face whatever weather greets them in the outdoor play areas. Here are three different ways Carlton North educators have inspired outdoor play this month. 

Footy fever 

When children in the Magpie room at Carlton North first shared their fervent love of AFL, Leadership Support Lilliane Stephenson Gordon, was puzzled. “I’m from NSW originally, so I didn’t understand that passion for the game that can be so strong in Melbourne,” she says. 

But Lilliane (now a Blues supporter) has embraced footy fever, harnessing the children’s passion to create a strong sense of community. “The children started talking each Monday about the football, who had won and which teams they barrack for,” she says. “We created a chart with all the different teams and who we each barrack for.” 

Liliane says the project has helped the children build a sense of belonging and collaboration. “We spend a lot of time outside kicking the footy and it’s been great for talking about developing our own rules (we don’t tackle!) and playing safely, with regard for others,” she says. “Children know the players’ names, all the words to their team’s song and they understand the concept of a mark and what it is worth. We even have a dream to hold a community match in the park with families.”  

Park picnic 

High winds and icy temperatures may have prevented the kinder children from accessing their Bush Kinder program recently, but that didn’t stop them from rugging up and heading outdoors. 

Early Childhood Teacher Laila Newman says the park across the road from the service is the ideal place to engage in risky play, connect to Country and work on their school readiness skills. 

“Bush Kinder days involve children bringing their own lunch and working out how to open and close their lunchbox, and what to eat for snack and lunch,” Laila says.  

“We spent the day in the park where some of the children took part in a nature scavenger hunt, while others created their own game together, playing magpie families. It’s also a great opportunity for them to connect with nature and Country.” 

Bush magic 

The children needed no encouragement when Early Childhood Educator trainee Matilda Adlam announced a potions activity at Carlton North recently.  

Armed with a special ‘potions book’ she had created, Matilda engaged the children in finding natural ingredients to paint, swirl, swish and mix in small potion bottles.   

“I used to love making potions outdoors when I was a child,” Matilda says. “We use leaves, rocks, twigs and water, and add a little colour to make some magic.” 

Potions included a spell for trees, animals and, of course, some much-needed sunshine.