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Playing Around

i Jun 20th No Comments by

Nothing prepares a child’s brain for learning more than an adrenalized state. It focuses the mind and improves sensory input, which deepens the imprinting process. Nature gives us this capacity to activate our senses and be receptive to our environment. It’s a survival skill. When coupled with child’s passions – those super-charged activities that seem to universally excite kids – these heightened states of awareness become the gateway for kids’ exploration and ownership of their learning process.

At Vashon Wilderness Program, we use use Play and Passion to teach a whole host of nature skills.

Lessons on finding animal track and sign, identifying edible and medicinal uses of plants, or building a water-proof debris shelter are all seamlessly absorbed when they include games that get your kids’ adrenaline flowing. The most popular ways we do this at VWP are to play games that include at least one of the following elements:

  • Hiding, Seeking, Sneaking
  • Hunts, Errands, Adventures
  • Make Believe

Here’s one of our favorite games to help cultivate quiet mind, expand observational skills, and increasing comfort in nature. Enjoy!

Eagle Eye is a great outdoor game for children. It’s essentially hide-and-seek game that teaches kids to slow down, be quiet and still (or move silently and gently through nature), all while getting comfortable down in the undergrowth and dirt.

Here’s how you play:

  1. Look for a play area that contains undergrowth – leafy shrubs that provide cover.  Watch out for hazards like ground nests, trailing blackberry, or nettles!
  2. Choose an area that will be the “eagle’s nest.” Make a clear boundary out of sticks, rocks, pine cones, backpacks — whatever is available.
  3. Choose the first “Eagle” to hide her eyes and announce how long she will count. We recommend an adult or experienced player be the first Eagle.
  4. While the Eagle counts to 25, the other children hide. Here’s the catch: they must always be able to see the Eagle with at least one eye at all times from their hiding spot.
  5. When the Eagle is done counting, announce “the Eagle has landed” and begin to scan the area for any signs of color or shape that seems out of place. The Eagle must stay within the boundary of the nest while “seeking.”
  6. Any children that are spotted must come and sit quietly in the nest. They are not allowed to tell the Eagle nor point to where the other children are hiding. You can have them pretend to be eagle chicks that utter a sound when they spot another hider, but they should not give away the hiding child.
  7. The last hider to be found can be the next Eagle. And they will want to play again, and again… !

Some extensions:

  1. If the Eagle cannot see any hiders, he may close his eyes and count again, this time to 5 or 10. During this time, the hiders should move 5 steps closer to the Eagle’s nest. The goal for them is to get as close as possible to you without being spotted.
  2. Another way to help out an Eagle who cannot see the hiders is for the Eagle to say “Animal Call!” Then the Eagle listens for the hiders to make a sound, which usually helps focus the scanning (“seeking”) in a particular area.
  3. After the game, you can take the opportunity to ask the children questions that will increase their awareness, such as: What colors blend in well in this landscape? What did you notice in your hiding spot – any particular plants, spider, or animal sign? What animals do you think live and hide around here? What might happen to a bird that makes a lot of noise and does not hide?

 

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