So, when I had my baby girl (who is now a delightful two-and-a-half year old) I went along to my local ‘new parents’ group. I forced myself to go. I hated it. I’m sure its great for some new parents, but not for me!
Instead, I enjoyed taking her to the Parent-Child Mother Goose Program weekly sessions, and also local libraries who run special Tinies’ Time sessions for little ones, which I still do, and they are truly fantastic. (Casey-Cardinia Libraries Tinies Time at Pakenham and Emerald and Eastern Regional Libraries Toddler Time at Ferntree Gully and Belgrave)
I find these great as a back-up, but really wanted to find something more fulfilling for both of us to enjoy. Having a dog, and quite an outdoor lifestyle, I was already walking every day, and doing longer, more adventurous walks at the weekend, so it was a natural progression to join a dog walking group, which was a great way to socialise during the week, and for me, great to meet people who I could hold an adult conversation with that wasn’t necessarily about babies 😉
I also tried taking my daughter to a soft-play centre, and a playgroup once. I hated it. She seemed to vaguely enjoy herself, but I didn’t feel she was really gaining anything from the experience. I wanted something that my daughter would actually get pleasure and excitement out of, and especially something that involved my interaction with her and involvement.
I’d heard of bush playgroups a few times, but none of them ever seemed to be close to home. Then one finally came up! I was signed up for emails from Eco Toys, (who also organise Eco Explorers bush playgroups), and an email came through mentioning a new venue – Lysterfield Park (a 20-minute drive away). I was so excited and signed my daughter up straight away!
It’s a two-hour session that runs weekly, rain or shine, it’s run by a brilliant nature play facilitator; Belinda. There’s always a few activities set up to take part in if the child (or parent) chooses, but no expectation to do this. The children generally decide what they want to do themselves (making mud pies is my daughters preferred activity). We generally have a little ramble around the bush, looking out for things to interact with, like making a den, going for a paddle in the lake or watching a family of ducks or kangaroos. There’s always a tree trunk to walk along and jump off, or some small critters to play with.
I find the idea of bush playgroups just brilliant, children get all the benefits of interaction and mixing with other little ones, whilst also experiencing the freedom of unstructured play in an exciting and natural environment.