Close up of child's leg and foot, standing on log outdoors

5 Nature Play Ideas for Young Children

As a parent you’ve probably heard plenty about nature play. But, you may not be aware of how to go about getting your children playing in nature or even the benefits.

One of the first things your child will notice when they start to play outside is what’s around them – trees, plants, birds, insects, dirt and so on. But there’s a bit more to nature play than just looking around. Nature play is all about exploring and engaging with their natural environment as well as experiencing different forms of that environment. This means touching and interacting in a way that complements their natural play.

Playing outdoors is important for a range of skills including creativity, problem solving, hand-eye coordination and gross motor skills. The nature play side provides the stimulation children need to develop their senses – seeing, hearing, touching and smelling. Time outdoors playing increases physical activity, healthy development and overall wellbeing. If you have a super active child, it will also help them get some of that excess energy out.

Before we get onto some great nature play ideas, let’s explore what a natural area looks like. It’s a good idea to keep in mind that you don’t need to have all these areas at home – if you look around your local area, there’s a good chance these places already exist.

An area that is best for nature play including elements like:

Gardens where you can plant flowers and vegetables
• Sandpits
• Areas to dig
• Playing with natural items such as gum nuts, branches, and stones
• Pebble pits
• Flowers that can be picked and smelt
• Plants that encourage insects like butterflies and animals like birds
• Trees with shade
• Water play areas

Nature Play Ideas

There are so many great nature play ideas out there, specifically that meet the needs of younger children. These are some of the best that we’ve discovered children love.

Mud Pie Kitchen

Have you heard of wombat stew? All the bush animals trick the dingo into using mud, feathers, gumnuts and more in his stew to save their wombat friend. A mud pie kitchen allows your child to create their own version of “wombat stew”.

Outdoor play kitchens are popular, but you truly don’t need one for this activity. All you really need is a bowl or two, one for collecting and one for mixing, a range of “ingredients” such as leaves, feathers, flowers, sand, dirt – whatever you can find. And then it’s simply a matter of adding water. This is such a fun and imaginative way for children to get amongst nature.

Rock Painting

This is such a simple yet fun activity for children of any age. Collect some stones, pull out the paint and let your children create their own “rock monsters”. It’s a great way to explore the garden and then sit outside in the fresh air while painting.

Nature Walks

Nature walks are very simple and very beneficial for the entire family. Whether you head to a park, a rainforest or go on a little bushwalk, there are so many ways for your child to interact with nature as they are walking. Younger children may like to collect sticks, stones and flowers while older children will enjoy looking out for animals and birds. This is certainly one you need to have some time for though – it passes very quickly when little ones are engaged in collecting items.

Outdoor Sticky Mural

Another option that will get your child collecting different nature items is a sticky mural. All this takes is a piece of contact and your child’s natural collecting abilities. Stick the contact to a wall or a gate with some heavy-duty tape and let your child create. Flowers, leaves, petals and more make a great mural.

Bark Art

There’s two ways you can create bank art. Firstly, you could collect larger pieces of bark and let your child paint on them, or the second way is by creating rubbings. Tape a piece of paper to a tree, and let your children draw on the paper with crayons. It creates some lovely patterns and your child can see how the ridges in the bark transform onto paper.

Benefit of Nature Play in an Early Learning Setting

There are of course children who naturally love playing outside, while others aren’t so fond of it. But it is important to look at what outdoor and nature activities your early learning centres do. Outdoors is certainly one of the best places for children of all ages to learn. Early childhood learning centres are the perfect spot for sensory activities like water tubs and sand tubs, using leaves and flowers in craft activities, planting gardens with the children and simply being outside. When choosing an early learning centre, make sure you ask about the types of outdoor and nature play activities the children partake in.

Looking for an early learning centre in Mandurah, Fremantle or Bibra Lakes that has the wellbeing of your child at the front of mind? Speak to the team at Treasured Tots and find out how nature play is incorporated daily.

SORY BY Karen Chapman – Treasured Tots







Children MacKillop uniform bend down next to grass

Witness the Amazing Growth at MacKillop!

Growth at MacKillop!

Nestled in the valley between the Pyramid and Mount Peter lies MacKillop Catholic College, one of the Far North’s most contemporary schools. The story of MacKillop has been one of continual growth, from humble beginnings as an open cane field, to what is now a bustling campus.

The southern corridor is one of the fastest growing areas in Cairns, with significant residential developments. MacKillop Catholic College is responding to the increasing demand for school placements and is ideally positioned to cater for future expansion in this region.

The College originally started in 2016 with 80 students from Prep to Year 3. In the past five years MacKillop has grown to over 500 students.

2020 saw the first Year 7 students in the brand-new secondary facility, so the first Year 12 students will graduate in 2025. By the end of the decade the school will expand to a projected enrolment of 1600 students.

In addition, MacKillop purposely designed the contemporary facilities to maximise student involvement in the learning process. They’ve also been designed to help to lay the groundwork for diverse pathways into senior secondary schooling. This includes options for students who will enter the world of work, pursue vocational training, or opt for tertiary education. Plus, MacKillop’s next phase of building the college will expand with state-of-the-art learning spaces. These will cater for The Arts, Hospitality and Industrial Design and Technology.

Overall it is a remarkable tale of development and expansion. But, there is much more to the story than buildings and enrolment numbers. At the heart of the College are the students, who the school supports and encourages to grow and achieve their potential. Furthermore, MacKillop’s pastoral care program fosters the development of the whole child – academically, socially and spiritually. If you want a school that will nurture your child to learn and grow in a supportive environment, look no further. Come and discover what MacKillop has to offer!

Taking applications now for Prep and Year 7 in 2022 – there are no application fees!









Night Terrors and Nightmares

 There are few things more bone-chilling and saddening than waking up to your child screaming in the middle of the night. Sleep is still somewhat of a mystery, and our brains can come up with all kinds of things to scare us. This includes nightmares and night terrors.

Nightmares Vs Night Terrors

What some people don’t know is that there is a big difference between nightmares and night terrors.

Nightmares are experienced when children (and sometimes adults) awaken from a vivid dream with an intense feeling of fear caused by something that happened in the dream. Children can usually recall what happened with a fair bit of detail. In addition, the “scary things” can often be attributed to a child seeing or hearing something that scares them. They can be things that are real, or make-believe (such as monsters).

Nightmares affect approximately 30-90 per cent of children aged 3-6.

Night terrors are partial arousals from sleep where a child may scream, shout or kick as if they are in an intense panic. They may sit upright in their bed with their eyes wide open. Despite this, they are not fully conscious, and they are not likely to notice the presence of their parents. The episodes usually last between 10 and 30 minutes. Fortunately, most of the time, the child won’t remember anything from the event.

Night terrors affect approximately 3 per cent of children aged 4-12.

What You Can Do to Help

When it comes to nightmares, consoling your child is the best way to help them calm down. Assure them that there is nothing to be scared of, that the nightmare wasn’t real and that they are safe here with you. Be open to discuss what happened in their nightmare if they’re willing to talk about it. A nightlight or stuffed animal may provide some comfort. Be sure to keep your child away from movies or images that are not age-appropriate, as this can lead to nightmares.

When it comes to night terrors, however, the best thing you can do is wait the episode out. Since your child isn’t fully conscious, consoling or attempting to wake them will likely not do anything. Make sure their environment is safe so that they can’t hurt themselves from moving around. Once the episode has passed, it’s safe to wake them. It may also be a good idea to keep them awake for a bit, as this lowers the chance of another night terror happening in the same night.

The bottom line is that both nightmares and night terrors, as terrifying as they may be, are normal occurrences. They rarely have long lasting psychological effects on children.

If your child’s nightmares or night terrors occur frequently or you have any concerns about their sleep patterns or anxiety, take them to your GP.

Read more PakMag Parenting blogs HERE. 







Fear, the Stages and How to Navigate It

Fear, like other emotions, is a natural part of life. From toddler to teenager, children can experience many and varied fears throughout their growing years. Parents, grandparents, carers and teachers have an important role to play in supporting children to understand and overcome their fears. This helps them navigate life’s “scary” situations safely.


Every child is different. Some toddlers have no trouble leaving their parents, as they run with joy into their day care or pre-school centre – without looking back – much to the sadness of the parent left standing at the door longing for a hug goodbye. Looking on with envy are the parents of toddlers who experience great fear when it comes to separation. They try to prise loose the little arms wrapped around their neck with the strength of a boa constrictor!

New experiences and transitions can be scary at any stage of life whether. This includes starting pre-school, the first day at primary school, high school, university or even the first day at work. So how can we support toddlers to make that all important first transition to pre-school?

  • Make the unknown more familiar with visits to pre-school together.
  • Identify the children, activities and toys that your child was naturally drawn to so you can remind your child about great aspects of pre-school.
  • Talk to your child about how drop off and pick up times will work and the fun they will have during the day.

At home, role-play a typical pre-school day by using your child’s toys to help make the experience more familiar.

  • For example: create a pretend pre-school and show your toddler how Mummy or Daddy Bear drops little Teddy off at pre-school. Teddy has a great day at pre-school playing with other toys and doing activities with the teachers. Allow the child to enjoy some morning tea with Teddy at pretend pre-school, sit with Teddy and the other toys to listen to a story being read by the teacher. Then Mummy or Daddy Bear comes to pick up Teddy to go home – just like you will pick them up! Teddy has had a great day and tells his Mummy and Daddy all about it. Allow your child to experience this role-play a few times. Each time inviting your child to become more involved in the process – “What else could you and Teddy do now at pre-school? It’s lunch time, what happens now?

Make the time to talk to your child about going to pre-school just like Teddy did. Invite your child to explain how they feel about going to pre-school and alleviate any worries they might have.

  • Most importantly when it comes to the day for the real drop off, try and stay as calm as possible. Your children will pick up on your fear and make saying goodbye harder.
  • With a little practice and patience – your toddler will be running into pre-school without a care or a fear. Instead they’ll have a sense of joy and adventure!

Young Children

When you were young, do you remember being afraid of the dark? Were you worried that there were monsters in your room, in the cupboard and under the bed? Many children experience fear of the dark. Here are steps to support our children to overcome their fears and worries about the dark:

  1. When your child is upset and worried about the dark, start by slowing everything down to help your child find calm. Slow your voice and breathing down. Say reassuring words like “you’re safe”, and “I’m here”, and “we’ll work this out together” and offer a hug. Help your child take slow, deep, breaths. Invite them to feel their feet on the ground to be more present. Most of all be patient… it takes time to calm down.

  2. Once the child is calm, explore the fear. You can talk about it and even draw the worry. Explain to your child that together you can find solutions to overcome the fear. No time to solve the issue? Why not put the worry or the fear in a “worry box” for later and once the fear is dealt with put the fear in the bin!

  3. Help your child uncover their negative thoughts that cause fear, worry or anxiety and replace them with positive thoughts.

  4. Sometimes children are too fearful to try. Explore where your child has overcome a fear or obstacle in the past successfully by trying it. For example, going to pre-school, staying at a friend’s house overnight or sleeping in their bed without the light on. Try the activity for short periods of time and make them longer over time as the child’s fears reduce.


As we all know, teenagers can be fearless, reckless and engage in many risk-taking behaviours during the adolescent years. In fact, the teenage years are the most dangerous period in life for accidents, injury and death. And, these tend to be the result of the teen’s own actions. Teen’s brains are wired for fearlessness and risk-taking, but one thing that can inspire fear and worry in teens is the need for peer approval. In fact, the need to belong and the fear of being excluded from the group is so great that it can lead to teens to engaging in risky, irresponsible and dangerous behaviours – just to be part of the group. To a teenager, acceptance by their peers can be paramount!

How can parents help their teenagers to be safe and to make good decisions instead of making poor decisions based on the fear of be excluded by their peers?

  1. Know who your teens friends are. Your teen’s peer group can be a positive or negative influence in your teen’s life.
  2. Research shows that teens tend to get up to risky behaviours between the hours of 3pm and 6pm when parents are at work. So, have teens engaging in safe activities – like after school sport.
  3. Help your teen to understand how their fear of not being part of the “group” could drive them to take risks that can have serious negative long-term consequences. The risks can include drinking, drugs, sex and crime. 
  4. Help your teen to overcome their fear of peer rejection and making good decisions by exploring who their friends are, their fears of being excluded or ridiculed by their peers, and understanding that true friends want to keep everyone safe – not put themselves or others at risk.

Professional Help

Children will experience a range of fears throughout their lives. If your efforts to help your child overcome their fears do not seem to be working and your child is experiencing persistent or worsening fears that are hindering their wellbeing, consider seeking professional help. You can start by seeing your local doctor or paediatrician to get the support you and your child need.

Additional Resources

Beyond Blue Article: Strategies to Support Anxious Children. Be Brave Program: The BRAVE Program is a FREE interactive, online program for the prevention and treatment of childhood and adolescent anxiety. Support for children and teenagers to better cope with their worries. There are also programs for parents. 


Dr Rosina McAlpine is the CEO and creator of the Win Win Parenting program. Win Win Parenting practical and fun programs are delivered across a variety of organisations including early learning, school, corporate and government organisations in Australia, New Zealand and The United States. Dr Rosina is an internationally recognised award-winning researcher and educator. 

How Can I Help My Child Deal With Stress?

Win Win Parenting 

Dear Dr Rosina, How can I help my child deal with stress?

Stress is a normal reaction to life’s challenges. Helping children overcome it will empower them to tackle obstacles they encounter with courage and confidence.

Here are three tools that can help:

1. Be a good role-model. When it comes to managing your stress – children look to their parents for guidance.

2. Teach calming techniques. Help children learn to slow and deepen their breath when they’re feeling stressed. 

3. Encourage positive self-talk. Create an empowering mantra that children can repeat to themselves when they feel worried, like: “I’m OK, everything is fine, I can get the help I need, I’ve been successful before and I’ll do it again.”

Read more parenting blogs HERE. 







Confidence in the Classroom

The Raising Children network defines self-esteem as feeling good about yourself. They explain that self-esteem helps children try new things, take healthy risks and solve problems. It gives them a solid foundation for their learning and development. They state that self-confidence is the belief that you’ll be successful. Confidence is related to self-esteem and resilience. They say that children need a strong relationship with parents to feel confident. In addition, they explain that parents can help their children build confidence by focusing on the effort at school, more than achievement.

What confidence in the classroom means

It is easy to identify confidence in the classroom. Children who are self-confident are children who display an age-appropriate level of independence and self-help skills. They can use the classroom cues a teacher provides to manage their day, seeking out help as required, along the way. Having confidence in the classroom allows children to practice resilience and to feel safe when bouncing back from disappointment, frustration, mistakes and setbacks without looking to blame others or avoiding future challenges. This ability to self-regulate emotions and to understand the impact that one’s behaviour has on another is strongly linked to a healthy self-confidence. Asserting one’s rights, negotiating, solving problems and seeking help when needed is an essential part of operating within a classroom community.

A child with self-confidence takes risks and seeks out challenges in the classroom. They are not afraid of failure. They are able, with the teacher’s help, to set goals and work toward achieving them. Celebrating other children’s success is easy for a child with self-confidence. They are optimistic and excited about sharing their success.

Self-confidence means that feedback is received as feedback, rather than criticism. Children experience much lower levels of worry and anxiety within the classroom setting when they are taught that feedback is not failure. This is linked to mindset.

Children operating predominantly in a growth mindset, understand the link between success and effort rather than fixed or natural intelligence, according to Carol Dweck (2006) in Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Alarmingly, a child’s belief about intelligence can have a profound impact on the level of motivation and effort they display, along with their overall achievement. Self-confident children understand that effort equals success. And, with assistance, they can recognise and move from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. The ability to mostly work within a growth mindset, is one of the most significant hallmarks for achievement, security and happiness in the classroom.

How confidence in the classroom can help your child later in life

Confidence in the classroom has many positive flow-on effects for children throughout their lives. Self-confidence is linked to emotional intelligence. Having an awareness and positive outlook towards one’s own emotions leads to heightened wellbeing. It also leads to healthier relationships throughout our lives.

Performance, growth, and reaching one’s potential are all linked to self-confidence. This is because confidence motivates us to grow and succeed. In turn, feelings of success lead to further success.

Anxiety is reduced when we are self-confident because we can manage negative feelings. Through this, confidence builds resilience. The ability to weather life’s storms and bounce back is paramount to a life well-lived.

Ways to help your child gain confidence in the classroom

Through providing a safe and secure home environment, you are already allowing your child to flourish. Hoffman, Cooper and Powell in Raising a Secure Child (2017) state that ‘when children feel safe and secure, their curiosity automatically kicks in and they want to learn about the world’.  

Helping children shift from a negative to positive focus, after a setback, allows them to move from a pessimistic viewpoint and helps them to practice optimism. This reframing of negative thinking and self-talk is a lifelong skill for success. Assisting children to feel ok about failure and teaching them to view failure as their path to success, helps them to feel ok about it. Normalise feelings of disappointment and frustration, rather than saving children from these feelings. Talk them through it and suggest ways to move forward. Allow them to feel challenged and pressured by ‘hard’ feelings. Notice their courage when they work through these feelings.

Model failure, persistence and resilience in your everyday life at home. Encourage self-help skills and independence. Then, increase the expectations of these as children develop and grow.

Help your child to focus on their competence and potential. Do this rather than comparing them (or allowing them to compare themselves) with others.

Work with the classroom teacher and share any concerns about a lack of self-confidence in your child, early on.

Overall, the most effective way to help instil confidence in the classroom is to avoid praising intelligence and natural ability. Praise effort and the need for practice instead. Make a habit of regularly giving your child feedback.

Carol Dweck (2006) in Mindset: The New Psychology of Success points out that praising children’s intelligence harms their motivation, and it harms their performance. When children are praised for their intelligence rather than their effort, the minute they hit a setback, their confidence falters, and their motivation ceases, causing them to shift to a fixed mindset. What are the best gifts a parent can give? Carol recommends you “teach your children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. This avoids children being the slave of praise and equips them with a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.”

STORY BY Amanda Bannister, Birony Davis and Katrina Rugendyke, Year 5 Teachers at The Cathedral School of St Anne and St James, Townsville.