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Nature Play WA


Nature Play WA

Nature Play WA is an initiative of the Western Australian Department of Sport and Recreation (DSR), with the mission of making unstructured play outdoors a part of everyday life for all Western Australian children. Its goal is to encourage parents to balance the digital and sedentary realities of modern life with some of the free-ranging, imaginative, outdoor, play children so desperately need.

What is nature play?
Nature play is climbing a tree, building a cubby, walking in the bush, looking for shells on a beach and mucking around in the backyard. It’s splashing, digging, planting, exploring, running, making and imagining. It’s the unstructured play that lets kids imagine, create and be active.

Nature play is the things you used to do when you were a kid – the fun outdoor stuff that kept your body moving and your imagination firing. But, sadly, it is something that is fast disappearing from modern children’s lives.

Why is it important?
Nature play is important because today’s children spend more time indoors than any other generation in history. And a growing body of research shows that time spent outdoors in unstructured play is critical for children’s healthy development.

Nature play promotes physical, emotional and mental health and helps build resilience and creativity. And, perhaps most importantly, nature play helps make childhood the fun and creative time of life every child deserves it to be.

Nature Play WA – background
The Nature Play WA initiative, like many others around the world, was triggered by the work of American writer Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.

The principle message in the book, that there is a need to reconnect children to nature, was identified by the DSR communications team as a potentially powerful tool in their efforts to advocate for benefits of recreation and Louv was brought to Perth in April 2010 to speak at the Perth Concert Hall.

The unadvertised event drew a crowd of 1,400, filling the Concert Hall. Nature Play WA was launched at the event by Sports and Recreation Minister Tuck Waldron.

Since Louv’s visit DSR staff have created and developed a model for the growth and sustainability of Nature Play WA, involving it becoming an incorporated, not-for-profit, association.

The first steps toward incorporation was to bring together founding partner organisations from across the key sectors of health, education, environment, parenting, recreation and business. This brought broad expertise and knowledge to the organisation and provided a base from which to draw association members and an inaugural board of directors. The board has been formed, a constitution written, and an application to incorporate has been lodged.

DSR has applied for seed funding for Nature Play WA Inc through the state budget bid process. If the bid is successful the funding will be delivered as a grant through the Department of Sport and Recreation to Nature Play WA. The aim, however, is that Nature Play WA Inc, once established, will attract sponsorship from the private sector to sustain itself into the future.

What will Nature Play WA do?
Nature Play WA is primarily an advocacy and communications body. It aims to:

  • Spread the message about the benefits of unstructured play in nature

– Capitalise on existing media interest;
– Connect directly with families via partnerships with playgroups, schools and sporting bodies;
– Organise nature play events and forums.

  • Encourage and facilitate the formation of Family Nature Clubs around WA

– Created online tools to help people create and join Family Nature Clubs;
– Created an online forum for Nature Play Groups to share ideas and experiences;
– Will work directly with community groups in key areas to help them establish clubs.

  • Form a network of strategic partnerships (Nature Play WA Network)

– Relationships already established with Playgroup WA (represents 12,000 families in play groups) and WACSSO (represents 630 parent and citizens associations across the state), the AMA, and many more.
– Form new partnerships in outdoor recreation sector and others.
– Use this network to help deliver our information and spread message within their sphere of influence.

  • Assess, map and publicise nature play resources – physical and organisational

– Create an online map to show parents nearby outdoor play areas and suggest activities.
– Provide a comprehensive online list of nature play related organisations and agencies.

  • Create pilot projects and events

– Organise Nature Play Days at key locations;
– Encourage network members to create nature play events, projects and programs.

  • Build resources and grow network

– Create a strategic plan;
– Continue to investigate funding models to sustain and grow the Nature Play WA mission.


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