I gave a talk yesterday in the picturesque Victorian town of Clunes to a small, but dynamic group of locals. It was a gorgeous sunny Spring day and the kids had a great time drawing with crayons as I talked to their Mums an Dads.
We got into the discussion of productive gardens in playspaces and I met one particularly interesting woman, Yonke who had to seven year old sons and had devoted many years to developing not only a great ‘place’ for her kids to play at home, full of fruit tree forests, organic sand play areas, mud pits, tree-houses etc. but also the local kindergarten and her attention was now focussed on her son’s school and developing ‘outdoor classroom’ areas. She was a truly inspiring example, without airs or theory of someone who listened to her children and endeavoured to understand their needs.
A great passion of hers is the ‘edible’ garden and I must admit my eyes were opened. As a city dweller most of my life (only became a tree-changer less than 3 years ago) I did what I often get frustrated about and ‘compartmentalised’ productive gardens and kids play. I saw them as complementary, but not integrated but Yonke has changed my mind. She invited me out to her home to see what she had done there and talked me through her philosophy on food and environment. The plants in her garden were not the beans and potatoes of the kitchen garden programs in schools that we know and love, that could be eaten straight off the trees – no cooking required.
As I had talked at length about the sensory opportunities with children’s environments that morning. It was inspirational to actually meet someone who truly put this into practice, while at the same time provided an environment that was challenging and flexible….everything a playspace should be. It reminded again that a child’s experience of the world shouldn’t just be limited to recreation or physical activity, it should be an opportunity to explore the richness of the world we live in!