What’s not to love about a hideout built by a child from natural loose parts outdoors? I am so convinced that there is something quite special about hut building in nature, that I’ve compiled a list of my top 10 reasons why every child should give it a go!
1. There’s the excitement in discovering ready made hideouts, left behind by other ingenious, industrious young children. They tell a story of play scenes recently enjoyed and finally, (probably reluctantly), abandoned, when home time rolled around. Playing in and around existing huts is awesome! I’ve often wondered how cool it would be to see a video from a time-lapse camera showing different children and their play ideas around the same structure, watching morph in design and purpose over time!
2. There’s the hunt for loose parts, inspired both by abandoned, perhaps incomplete, structures; as well as the excitement of whatever the play theme is at the moment. Children seriously have the best imaginations! This is a workout for the imagination!
3. There are all of those wonderful visual perceptual skills at work! …Seeking out and identifying the required sticks, fallen branches, bark, rocks etc… of just the right size, length, colour and shape. Make no mistake, children are work on their pre-reading and pre-writing skills in the most ‘unlikely’ of ways – including right here in the great outdoors.
4. There are the rich sensory experiences – the smell of natural treasures (here in Australia, the fresh eucalyptus gumtree scent is strong!); the sound and feel of crunching leaves and sticks underfoot; and the touch of the gathered hut materials, sending lots of clear sensory feedback about their texture, temperature, weight…
5. There’s the inevitable ‘heavy work’ involved in lifting, dragging, and carrying all the sticks and rocks to the desired positions. Officially, this super powerful, calming and regulating activity for the central nervous system is actually another sensory experience, however, I think it’s so important – it deserves a whole separate point!
6. There’s the motor planning practise; that is, the planning, sequencing, and executing of smooth, efficient, co-ordinated movements and actions responsible for turning little ones’ hut building ideas into reality. For me, it was absolute GOLD watching young B working out how to carry, balance AND move with long sticks at least twice his height!
7. There’s the problem solving and perseverance involved in the unpredictable and often tricky process of creating a hut. There are plenty of roof collapses, wall breakages, doorway shrinkages along the way, and they are all form invaluable lessons in learning through play! There is a LOT of physics involved here!
8. There’s the connection with our natural environment and the world in which we live – respecting the living, breathing plants, insects, birds and animals that are sharing the space. Making sure we choose our loose parts carefully, that they are fallen; and checking for wildlife that may call that material ‘home’ is always important.
9. There’s the fact that it’s an outdoor activity – breathe in that fresh air! Say no more!
10. And finally, there’s the beauty of interacting actively with local ‘play spaces’… I cannot say this often enough – a large backyard is NOT necessary to ensure a childhood filled with wonderful, rich, play-based, outdoor learning and exploring! There is something so special about hut building with other children, even ‘new friends’ met coincidentally at a community park, working as a team, or even being the one to leave the ‘gift’ of a new natural hut for the next visitors to the area to stumble across, and be inspired by!
So in planning your next outdoor adventure, I challenge you to head towards your nearest appropriate ‘hut building spot’, to follow the lead of your child (or children), and soak in the thrill on their faces as they work on their own creation – with or without your help! This is where resilient, creative, caring children are found, and where memories are made.
I would LOVE you to leave me a comment below if you have ever built or found a hut in your travels, made from natural loose parts!
Thanks for visiting Kids Play Space!