It’s New Year’s Eve. The bustle of the pre-Christmas schedule is over, the days are hot, steamy and languid, and about the most active thing we do is swim at the beach or wander up to the pool. I read a book – two in fact! I have spent all year wanting time to read several books in succession. The period of time between Christmas and New Year has always been a relaxed, peaceful, playful time that naturally opens up the opportunity for reflection for me. I don’t make new years resolutions (I don’t think we have to wait until the new year to set our goals!) but as one year draws to an end in its final days and a new one is set to begin, I do find myself considering what I will invite into my life this year. I just read a post by Richard Louv, discussing the growing interest in nature-rich environments. He said “We’re not going back. We’re going forward into Nature. With luck and determination, 2015 will be the year of the Nature-Rich City.” It gave me pause to reflect about the role of nature in my life this year, and how it has taken me by surprise in a most joyful way with Numala Kinder.
At the beginning of 2014 I had no idea that Numala Kinder would come into existence. I never had any intention to begin family day care again, let alone one with such an emphasis on nature play. It arose so suddenly, and then it all fell into place. Numala Kinder came, and I’m so glad it did. Numala Kinder has brought me a level of professional and personal joy that I have been pleased to experience again. Numala Kinder has also brought me a lovely surprise: it has become a River Kinder.
It was always my intention for the Numala jajumms (= children,Yugambeh) to use the river. It is mostly very shallow and my own children enjoy playing on the banks and building with the rocks, making islands and paths and houses in the shade of the fig trees. In the beginning, though I only intended to go there for short visits now and then, and run the traditional indoor-outdoor rhythm I’ve always done, with opportunities for creative art and storytelling in between. There would be circle time and story time and rest time and it would be like a little preschool in my home. But that didn’t happen.
At first our new friends didn’t see the point of going to the river. They were uncomfortable there. Cold. Wet. It was rocky and slippery. I realised they didn’t feel safe in this unfamiliar environment, and for most of them this was their first time spent away from home without a parent. So we stayed close to home and played in our backyard, which is still a wonderful environment with its climbing trees, tree house, covered sandpit, flower gardens and digging pit. We’d spend an hour or two playing inside, but I noticed that the children were often more grouchy with each other during inside play. Getting along with each other seemed harder, sharing experiences and resources was challenging, moods were scratchier. I noticed that the children were much more content in each other’s company when they played the same games in the backyard. So, eventually we began spending more and more time in the backyard, only going in for rests and our journal time.
When the children felt more comfortable we started exploring again: short trips down to the creek to get a stick for the flag we painted, or to have storytime or a picnic. Runs out on the field to chase balls, play bows-and-arrows or build big spider webs with ropes in the trees. Longer walks to the duck pond to see what it was like when the water disappeared mysteriously, a play in the playground, ball games on the tennis court, riding our bikes and scooters. We are very lucky to have such a neighbourhood to play safely in.
Down by the river we discovered a fig tree we now consider to be our own … it has extended a branch at just the right height to ride like a pony, covers us completely from the sun, provides roots that are perfect to play houses, shops and bakeries in, and holds up strong limbs that are just the right for shorter legs to climb. We hung a rope there to swing on. By the end of the term we spent hours there before we realised we were feeling a bit hungry. Rain and shine. And each afternoon, if the tide was right and the rain hadn’t filled the river up too much we’d go in for a splash and paddle in the water, or a ride on our raft. No more concerns about being cold and wet and muddy and slippery. Success!
So by the end of the term Numala Kinder had become a River Kinder. We’ve been on holidays since the beginning of December, with just a couple of Numala Jajumm friends coming to play now and then. We have new Jajumms joining us in 2015, some of whom have never been away from mum. I expect that we will need to start again: building trust, feeling safe, relaxing into a new space with new people. I expect that we will need to find a new way of interacting with the river when the hot weather fades into chilly, windy days. We may be starting a Numala River Kids Playgroup too! Parents and children exploring the joys of the riverbank together. 2015 brings my renewed intention: to continue moving forward, gently embracing a natural childhood.