The Joys of Nature Play

Last week, Rose took Poppy and I out to spend the day in a local forest. It was wonderful. We weren’t alone, it was a big family event and the forest was brightly speckled with kids playing and reading books and flying kites. Nature Play organised it, Rose and I are huge fans of their work. They create opportunities and build skills for outdoor play – like a launching pad to go on to create your own. There’s always loads of low cost inspiring ideas we can easily replicate in our own park or backyard.

I actually approached them when they first started and asked about their organisational structure, because it’s one of the most elegant and effective I’ve seen. Their work is amazing and there’s a powerful team behind the scenes.

So I had a great time. I brought my travel art kit with me, and was having fun sketching the people and painting the forest with watercolours. While I was playing with it, a small group of kids came over fascinated. I was practising some brush lettering and they asked me to paint their names, and ‘Harry Potter’. Then they practised painting their own names with the brushes. (not shown as it’s their names, obviously)

Most kids never get access to a half way decent brush until high school or later – it’s a real annoyance of mine! Hogs hair stiff bristle brushes are really only useful for glue or oil paint. The rest of the time you need a cheap synthetic brush, well cleaned after each use, and small enough to actually do what the kids are trying to do with it! So they get frustrated and discouraged and think they are no good at painting. Learning to use a brush is like learning to use a pencil – it takes some practice! If we gave all grade one students a bent stick instead of a pencil how well do you think they’d learn? Hogs hair brushes are basically that.

I was working with water filled brushes (similar in design to an Asian brush pen, but filled with water instead of ink) which are cheap and super convenient when travelling as they carry the water inside their handle. It reduces a lot of mess and fuss and kids start to learn the basics of brush work – always pull a brush, never ‘push’ it, how firmly you press is how thick the line goes, how to wipe out one colour before going onto another, and when to stop because the paper is getting overloaded. It’s fantastic.

They had a wonderful time and ended up working on a collaborative drawing for me. This one contains flowers, a bee, several tanks, and a fair amount of blood, I’m told.

Kids can’t resist art supplies. Me neither. It was a great day.

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