Tag Archives: play

Learning together: curiosity and experimentation

Sarah Hammersley

Being a facilitator of Raw&Unearthed PLAY I generally learn much more than I teach. Each and every session brings a chance for new ideas to be formed, connections to be made, challenges to be negotiated and relationships strengthened. Today was no exception.

The delightful toddler (in these photos) demonstrated just how capable young children are when it comes to being the agents of their learning and negotiating risk. Especially, when they are provided with the space, time and opportunity to observe, explore and experience the world.


He was standing with mum intently watching and studying the movements of the older children and the tyre as they played on the tyre swing.  When the older children moved on this toddler made a b-line for the swing. Mum attempted to lift him on and sit his legs through the tyre but it wasn’t really happening. I suggested letting him stand next to the tyre. Mum put him down and slowly moved back giving him space to explore. She sat next to me and watched as he first touched the tyre with his hands then lowered his head and looked through the centre of the tyre. With a big smile spread across his face he exclaimed, “Harry!” Mum returned the interaction by responding, “Harry you’re looking through the tyre. I can see you.” This turned into a game of peek-a-boo and before long he had pushed his upper body through the middle of the tyre.

As we watched on we reflected on how our instinct as adults is to help the child to play on the tyre, (just as we would). By propping him up into a sitting position. We continued watching and discussed further the importance of him developing an understanding of the movements, weight and the gravitational force of the tyre by  experimenting and going through the exploratory process he was going through now:

• Challenging his muscles in new ways at a level appropriate for his capabilities  (determined by him);

• Building his vestibular sense and understanding of his body in the world;

• Experiencing physical trial and error through safe risk taking;

• Experimenting with force, weight, gravity, movement, height and physics (to name but a few);

• Playing creatively and using his imagination whilst engaging all of his senses because he is outside!

All experiences and understandings he will later draw on when he is able to climb up onto the tyre himself.

Becoming more adventurous with the tyre he charged forward and pushed it with a greater force. It swung higher came back and knocked him over. Mum stayed next to me. I commented, “the tyre knocked you over.” He stood back up and pushed it again. This time as the tyre swung back he drew on his previous experience and purposefully side stepped, dodging the tyre.

Mum excitedly commented on how, he had learnt and discovered to move out of the way of tyre all by himself acknowledging his efforts and thinking processes.


Without meaning too, when we rush in to rescue children from situations such as this. We rob them of the ability to view themselves as capable, resourceful and resilient. We tend to scue the situation by viewing the experience with our (often negative) adult perceptions.  Our fear of failure rather than viewing the fall as a a vital step in a child’s exploratory journey and as an extraordinary moment in developing the child’s fascinating way of being.

By not rushing in to rescue him, mum was not only able to provide him with the opportunity to critically reflect, problem solve and push through the struggle of a fall. She enabled him to experience a natural consequence of playing with the tyre. He was able to explore and test his own capacities, to manage risk, and build a concrete understanding of the movement and play affordance of the tyre.

Erika Christakis put my thoughts into words perfectly when she said, “to see a child fully, we have to allocate the time and space to observe.” This seems to be the most logical yet hardest thing for educators to achieve. I challenge you this week to make it a priority. Step back and be an attuned observer within your space. Let go of the schedule and learn from the children!

Points for reflection:

How would you share this with your colleagues and or families to show them the thinking and learning involved?

What did you learn from the children today?

How does the structure, flow or rhythm of the service routine enable or disable children with time – for whole body, hands on explorations?

Count how many times you instinctively step in to help a child. Stop yourself. What happened?

What does the Early Years Learning Framework say about play and risk?


Christakis,E.(2016).The Importance of Being Little: What young children really need from growups. New York: Penguin Books.


Losing Control without Losing it

Bec Carey

We have spoken about letting go, stepping back and allowing the children to explore  their own urges. We have encouraged you to promote more time outdoors, unstructured and in nature. We have advocated for  children’s right to play, to be free and be active decision makers. We have asked you to view children as capable independent beings. We have shared evidence and knowledge on the benefits of all of this…..we have told you that trust is an essential ingredient in Raw&UnearthedPLAY. But what about you?! While you stand there watching your child/ren swing through the trees and turn your lounge room into a shop/zoo/village and use everything in their reach that isn’t tied down to build their ahhhmazing triple deck pirate ship…..you feel overwhelmed and  I bet you can’t help but feel a case of the ‘whats’.

What if- someone spontaneously pops in for a visit and sees my messy house?

What will- parents/owners/visitors think of the messy preschool room?

What will- people think of my mud covered always dirty children?

What happens- when we need to attend something structured?

What if- people think i am just a lazy parent?

What will- the other Educators think of my practice?

What will- happen when they go to school?

What if What if What if!  

The only way to get rid of a case of the ‘whats’ is to stop caring what other people may think, and it may also help to stop comparing your parenting/early childhood practice to the heavily edited perfection that streams through your Facebook feed. It’s time to get real. Have fun. Enjoy life. Stop worrying what others may think. Just breathe and remember play is messy, children need space and time to test out ideas and  what others think doesn’t matter. If you aim to inspire others instead of conforming to societies ‘ideal perfection’ of perfectly behaved quiet children, you will find that you can lose control with out,  losing it.


The ‘Perfect’ Family photo…

Let’s rewind a few years when I was at the pool with my then 4 year old daughter and 2 year old son. My 4 year old was having her weekly swimming lesson so naturally my 2 year old had to tag along. If you have met him, you will know he is a bundle of energy with a love of risky play. As we watched I couldn’t help but notice ALL the other 6 attending younger siblings were strapped in prams, glued to iPADs. I was absolutely gobsmacked! These babies we muted, unaware of their surroundings and unable to move. My own 2 year old was of course swimming in the shallows in his clothes, with a massive smile plastered on his face. While admittedly I was judging their choice of the ipad use, the early childhood teacher in me can’t help it, I can guarantee they were all judging and probably labeling me #badmum and my son #uncontrollable. Luckily for my son his happiness and development matters more to me than others’ judgments and I didn’t freak out and try to gain control, I went with it. At the forefront of my practice, I know the benefits of losing control and this enables me to not completely lose it in these type of situations.



NOTE: ‘These types of situations’ like that time I lost my 6 year old…..can you see her?           Hint: Red Pole. 

While I understand the juggling act of parenting- lets keep it real, I didn’t even have spare clothes with me that day at the pool. I just cannot fathom the benefit of providing a baby with an iPad. They are missing ALL the fun- say clothed swims and nudie car rides home! Sadly, I have noticed more and more babies being offered ipads in prams in various places- it seems to have become the norm. Recently I was asked by a medical receptionist if I thought an iPad was a good Christmas present for her 2 year old grandson. Needless to say my answer was ‘No, buy him something that he can use outdoors!’  These scenarios led me to reflect the reasoning of using ipads for babies. The only thing I could come up with is that it is to keep them quiet, entertained and distracted so they don’t disturb others. Am I wrong?  I am wondering when society suddenly decided that children should be seen and not heard again? In some cases not even seen…yes cranky man who told me a cafe was no place for children, I am talking about you! (Insert heated discussion re:children’s rights here, wrong person to approach buddy!)

But what if we changed our case of the ‘whats’ to a case of the ‘ifs’…..

If- we all let go and stopped worrying about others’ opinions?

If- we let children be?

If- we let children experience boredom?

If- we stopped overstimulating our children?

If- we all started to be honest?

If- we all supported each other instead of judging?

If we did all this, we would all be able to let go of our need to control all situations and allow the children to be, without judgment. When I am out and about and I see a child testing out ideas and advocating for their right to play, (sometimes puddles just scream to be jumped in!) There is usually a nervous stressed parent nearby and I love sparking a conversation with them, easing their qualms. Of course it helps that my own children have usually dived head first into the puddle alongside their child. These conversations will spread the word and allow us to not feel judged or lose it when our children push the (tight) boundaries society has created for them. It’s time to loosen those boundaries, let the fun begin!


Trolley rides on the street in Pyjamas……why not?!

So here you are standing watching your child/ren swing through the trees and turn your lounge room into a shop/zoo/village and use everything in their reach that isn’t tied down to build their ahhhmazing triple deck pirate ship……you take a deep breath in and smile knowing your child is becoming strong, creative, independent and that their imagination is well and truly alive. You feel satisfied that they will continue to grow and become stronger and be equipped to take on life challenges they are faced with. As you breathe out you relax, you have let go of the need to over control without losing it because you don’t care what others may think. You know childhood is such a small moment of time in the bigger picture. It may take time to adjust, to feel comfortable to fully let go of trying to control. During this time I recommend coffee. Lots of coffee. There isn’t much a double shot espresso can’t fix.


This is what losing control without Losing it looks like! So much fun play for the child and a calm, satisfied parent nearby. Trusting relationships, understanding and living life to the fullest! 

The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far…

Bec Carey

When my 11 year old daughter Tyger-May was given the task to write a speech on a topic of her choice, she announced that she knew exactly what she was going to talk about… Nature Play of course! Children really are influenced by the world that surrounds them, their home, their parents, their friends and their experiences.

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 With Tyger’s permission I have shared her speech below, it was too amazing to not share with the world. She was thrilled to have a special post on the blog and i am sure it wont be her last. It seems indeed that the apple doesn’t fall far when it comes to a love of nature, dancing in the rain and advocating for rights and a better way of life.

 Nature or  Devices – By Tyger-May

Have you ever thought of going out and exploring instead of sitting down on your devices? What are devices? Devices are Tv’s, xboxes, play-stations, ipads, iphones, ipods…….ieverythings! Well I certainly have thought about it, I always go out and build cubbies, carve sticks and go for a wander through the bush…not laze around on my devices all day!

My family loves going 4WDing, we see heaps of kangaroos, spiders and mostly dancing worms (you’re probably thinking what are dancing worms) Well there are such things, I’ll explain later.

My family also love going motorbike riding. When we go out bush my younger brother and sister always go for a swim in the giant muddy puddles pretending they’re finding crocodiles. Now that’s what I’m talking about, fun!

We also go for lots of bush walks, such as in the Watagans. It is so beautiful but really steep towards the end. The waterfall is AWESOME. We climb on the rocks and explore everywhere. Not on our devices! I believe that what I do, exploring nature, is much more fun that sitting down on a device playing games all day. Playing with nature is ten times more fun (in my opinion).

Even if you want to go on your devices, you should still play with nature more……

Like I said, you can build cubbies, tepees, and even climb heaps high in the trees if you really want too (yes, you might be afraid of heights but i am too). I still do climb trees, just not heaps high.

Now if you don’t want to play with nature you can always find other things to do like drawing, colouring, hand ball or read a book and more! Just don’t get too comfy with your devices, otherwise you wont get off them (trust me).

Why don’t we have a day not going on devices. What do you think? Most of you are probably thinking NO!! But I am thinking the opposite, YES!!

Did you know that my backyard is bush, with bush turkeys wandering around  and heaps of lizards, spiders and snakes?! I found out that we had snakes because a few weeks ago I saw a kookaburra catch a baby green tree snake in its beak one afternoon.

So do you love nature or not? Or prefer devices? Or are they equal? I don’t think they are equal NO WAY. I definitely love nature and not so much devices, so i’ll go with Option 1- Nature.

So I wonder when I am going 4WDing next because I might see some kangaroos, snakes and maybe dancing worms….otherwise known as LEECHES!

 I just love the honesty within her work. She has the ability to express her own opinion and ideas but additionally offers options and diversity in her suggestions. There is something for everyone out there, you just have to get outdoors and find it! Just don’t forget to pack the salt, you’ll need it for those pesky dancing worms.

Magical Worlds

Bec Carey

Magical Worlds

A picture says a thousand words,

A child’s mind thinks many more.

It dreams, imagines and creates,

Magical worlds to explore.

The earth provides many spaces,

waiting to be discovered.

Deep in rain forests,  through the trees,

Over mountains, under leaves.

You have to know where to go,

How to be and how to see.

Clear your mind, let everything go,

Venture on, oh so slow.

Creeping forward, eyes wide open,

Senses ignited with imagination. 

Stop. Pause and look beneath,

Magical worlds lay at your feet.


Make every day magical

Raw & Unearthed Play

Raw & Unearthed play is real and authentic. Deep within something moves, shifts and unearths. Imagination is unleashed. A deep connection is made and the world slows down creating time to just be.

 The Raw & Unearthed Child is born. 


Thank you to Joey Corner Photography for capturing these beautiful moments.






Sit down & Shut up

Bec Carey

Excuse me while I gather my thoughts and pick my brains up off the floor, they have just exploded with mixed emotion of anger, shock and complete disbelief. I can not believe some Educators are still stuck in practice where children are expected to sit down, shut up and be present at mandatory group times developed by and for educators convenience. What benefits does this practice promote- apart from the obvious time it allows for educators to pack away everything out of children’s reach to make their end of day duties easier. No play = no mess, right? How do these said Educators force children to sit for extended periods of time? Feed them biscuits? Read them continuous stories? Physically pull them back into place? My heart bleeds at the thought. My head screams NO! Physically my whole body would become mute at the shock of utter disbelief. My brain will definitely explode.

I have worked in Early Childhood for over 10 years. I know too well the pressures it creates. The constant juggle between keeping on top of the abundance of work, daily chores such as cleaning and meeting the high level of expectations from families, colleagues and business owners. But I would never dream of forcing a child to sit on the ground at my feet while I read endless stories from a comfortable spot on the lounge so my colleague can clean up. Story time for me looks and feels a lot different…. It usually begins with a child requesting me to read them a book or to tell them a ‘magic story’, a known specialty of mine. We find a comfortable place to sit together, a lounge, floor cushions or under a tree. At times, after the story has begun, more children may curiously join in if they wish. There’s no mandatory crossed legs, no superior teacher above the children’s height, looking down and forcing children to listen. Actually there is usually body parts everywhere, entangled in an wonderful mess of comfort and belonging. Children come and go as they please and if they chose to sit upside down, back the front or lie down, they can. Others like to listen from a distance, multitasking as they paint, draw and play. It’s fun, it’s relaxing and it works. Books hold a very special place in my heart. I love them. So naturally story time for me is such an important time to promote an enjoyable atmosphere. I was so excited the first time I saw my 5 year old daughter smell the pages of a book, “ahh I just love the smell of books” she cooed dreamily.

I am completely dumbfounded as to how educators to this day could turn such a natural instinct into a forced expectation and experience. It’s 2016 people! Research and time has allowed us to evolve our practice for the benefit of the children.  We’re moving on and up, please don’t be the one left behind. If someone pulled your arms down and demanded you sit, how would you feel?  How can children find strength to assert their feelings and rights if they aren’t given opportunity to have a voice in the first place? Is this practice shaped from an outdated image of the child, incapable, inferior and helpless? Is it that these Educators forget that children have rights? The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is a universal agreed non-negotiable standard for the rights of children. Along with  a right to shelter, education, health and more, it states children have a right to play (Article 31). So, why do some think it’s ok to take away this right? The UNCRC doesn’t say, “children have a right to play as long as it’s not messy and inconvenient for educators” Perhaps these educators have closed minds, they’ve done it the same way for years or perhaps they aren’t mindful of their own practice.


Mindfulness allows you to subconsciously stop and be aware of your actions, words and practice. It will provide you with time to critically reflect on yourself before you critically direct children.  Educators need to ask themselves ‘why’ they are giving direction to a child, especially if it’s taking away a child’s free choice. Better still, they need to stop directing  and start connecting. Relationships form a strong foundation to understand someone, to see the world through a child’s eyes. To be mindful you need to channel your own sense of being. You need to be comfortable in your practice with children, no matter how big the mess becomes. You need to understand children’s rights, including their right to play. The sooner you realise that play is messy, the sooner you will find inner peace.

 The perfect place to read

For more information on the UNCRC, Early Childhood Australia has provided links on their website to the original document as well as providing links in various language options. There is even a simplified version, for those who like it clear and concise.

 Early Childhood Australia- http://www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/learning-hub/educator-resources/childrens-rights/

UNCRC Original document in full- http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/ProfessionalInterest/crc.pdf

This post is a tribute to Bev Bos, a true advocate for play and children’s rights who sadly passed away this week. 

Milk Clouds

Bec Carey 

Clouds are those fluffy, magical things that float carelessly in the sky, they follow you in your car and change form into unicorns, dragons and the faces of people who have gone but aren’t forgotten. A child once told me they were made out of milk. A pure explanation from a pure mind. I could see the resemblance as I gazed wondrously up into the blue and sunny sky, but I thought to myself not all clouds resemble milkiness, not all clouds are created equally or serve the same purpose. Storm clouds, are dark, aggressive and black. What are they made of through a child’s pure eyes? I wonder if it was a different day back then, would I have still been laying down on the grass with a group of children gazing up into dark gloomy endless skies. In all honesty probably not.  Would I lay in a field gazing up at dark storm clouds today? I most definitely would! You see, I’ve changed. I have allowed myself to evolve and grow. As my hunger for new knowledge and research has grown, my practice has become filled with reason and I have become filled with joy, energy and motivation.

As an educator continuity of learning for yourself is a valuable quality to your professional self.  These days the moment you finish your degree it changes and a day from graduation your qualifications  are already outdated. While it wont stop you from obtaining a job within the industry, it may limit your on-going practice.  If you don’t continue self study and research beyond the walls of your university lectures, you will fast become stuck in a rut, repeating the same same each year. We are a profession, not a bunch of whiny babysitters who want more pay. Stand up, (wo)man up and teach yourself to become a strong voice for the early childhood industry. As an industry we are evolving too. There is a change coming, the clouds are moving and changing shape. It’s the calm before the storm and after the storm, the milk clouds will return and rain over us as we prance through the open fields with flowers in our hair. I am a dreamer, what can I say.

In all seriousness, there really is a change coming. I can feel it. I know it, and while there may not be milk rain and unicorns, there will be play and lots of it deeply embedded into kindergarten classrooms.  I recently was invited to a Department of Education networking meeting in my local community. Within a room full of Assistant principals, Kindergarten teachers and Primary school coordinators, I was the only Early childhood teacher. I have built a strong relationship with my local Kindergarten Assistant Principal and she had invited me along. I was unsure what to expect but oozing with excitement at the opportunity that lay before me. During the meeting I was able to share aspects of practice within the Early Childhood Industry. Questions were asked about holistic approaches, learning through play and intentional teaching. The air was thick with their desire to know more, to build on their own knowledge and unpack new ideas. Prior to the meeting I had a Kindergarten teacher spend a day with me to gain hands on experience of a true play environment- of course she left skipping and dancing out the door, filled with excitement and new ideas. She had allowed her mind to be opened and new ideas flowed freely in. I know we all face barriers, fears and challenges. I also know transitions take time. I’m not expecting this teacher to throw all her structured lesson plans out the window (not just yet anyway!), but I hope to see fresh ideas within her class room when I visit in the next few weeks.  Allowing your mind to be open to new ideas, thoughts and practice you have already taken the first step. It is the second step, advocating for the change which is the tricky one. It can be unstable. But, like everything else, persistence is the key.

It has been my dream to really connect with schools to advocate for change and actively work together. Breaking down the barriers and really seeing the change before my eyes. Play in kindergarten classrooms is not impossible.  Teachers have already begun reaching out and connecting with Early Childhood Educators. Viewing us as professionals has been the first step for them, a big one at that!  Sharing knowledge, working together and continuous visits to each others learning environment will lead to amazing things! Kindergartners may even be allowed to use authentic play tools! – you should have seen their faces when I told them I have allowed children to cut with real saws, build their own campfire and even cook on it. Jaws literally dropped to the floor. “You let them play with fire and have tools we don’t even let them run”, they exclaimed picking their chins up off the floor.

The shock factor of this conversation led to a really interesting reflective conversation about risk taking and utilising outdoor spaces. We discussed how Early Childhood Educators view children as capable, resourceful and we trust them to understand their intrinsic motivation in regards to risks. Alternatively,  schools have so many rules and structures that children lose their independence and ability to continue to build on the skills we work so hard to promote. Within our meeting they shared their desire to utilise the grass areas and trees they can see from their classroom windows. When I asked why they don’t…….why can’t you read a book or do some writing under a tree?…they first looked at me dumbfounded and then realisation spread across their faces. It really is that simple. The desire for change appeared to be there, but it seems fear has taken over. It’s up to us to give them a little push. The gap between early childhood and kindergartens is just too big. That cloud has become big dark and heavy. It’s bursting with a downward push of academic expectations from a competitive society. It’s Kindergarten, not university! Why is everyone is a rush for their child to walk, read, spell and count? Outcomes haven’t changed, but the expectations have gone higher.  It seems now school teachers are feeling the pressure on the eastern front.

That cloud is getting far too  heavy, we need to lift it up. Children need space to breathe, play and be. We, early childhood educators and parents need to stand strong and continue to make our voices heard. Connect with your local schools, build reciprocal relationships and advocate for the children’s rights. Leap out of your comfort zone, because that is where the magic happens. When the heavy cloud is lifted and I promise you it will, come and dance with me underneath the milk clouds and experience the feeling of purity and free.