Make nature play a priority, says Maggie Dent

26 June 2019
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Maggie Dent: keynote speaker at the Beaconhills conference

Having a small backyard or living in a flat shouldn’t stop parents from encouraging their children to experience the natural world, says parenting author and educator Maggie Dent.

Ms Dent is a keynote speaker at Beaconhills College’s upcoming Beyond the Boundaries conference for early years’ educators on Saturday 29 June. She is also holding a parent session on the same day.

Ms Dent said while not everyone had a natural play space on their doorstep, parents had to “get creative” to get their children active and outdoors.

“It does make it more difficult for parents to just send the kids outside to play when they don’t have a backyard, or even have a very small backyard. But it’s not impossible,” she said. “Nature is always just outside wherever we live so it’s a matter of stopping to engage with it, to give kids moments of awe and wonder.

“Take them out to see the full moon, or notice the setting sun and how it casts colour in the sky. Stop to look at ants or butterflies… grow flowers or herbs in pots in whatever space you do have.”

Known as the “queen of common sense”, Maggie Dent’s experience includes teaching, counselling, and working in palliative care/funeral services and suicide prevention. She is an advocate for healthy, common-sense raising of children in order to strengthen families and communities.

She believes that in our homes, early childhood settings and schools we should be incorporating nature into activities as much as possible – putting in nature playgrounds, mud kitchens, encouraging loose parts play and getting kids out into nature.

The outdoor classroom

Head of Little Beacons, Vicki Reid said Beaconhills’ Beyond the Boundaries conference for educators, on Friday 28 and Saturday 29 June, would highlight the possibilities of taking children “out of the safety of four walls, to explore nature and connect to the community.”

“Taking risks, building resilience and supporting the capacity of educators to do this will be the focus,” Ms Reid said.

“It’s so easy to stick to what we know, but actually going outside the boundaries creates endless opportunities and endless rewards – for children and staff.”

To book tickets to hear Maggie Dent speak at the educators’ conference, or parent session, go to the College Shop or to find out more email CEAD@beaconhills.vic.edu.au

The conference venue is Beaconhills College’s Pakenham Campus at 30-34 Toomuc Valley Road, Pakenham, Victoria.


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