Getting out the gate with a cohort of children can be daunting; there’s risk assessments to write, permission slips to get signed (and parents to chase to get permission slips signed as they walk back to the car…), plus, and most importantly finding the perfect spot to visit, which can take time. BUT! The actual going out the gate does not have to be that complicated! These days I feel like the misconceptions of what you are “required” to take with you are so overwhelming that they make getting out the gate so much harder than it needs to be! For a start: You don’t need a toilet! You also don’t need to take things to entertain the children in case they get “bored”, nature has all the affordances one would need to not get bored and if they do, a bit of boredom is not a bad thing – in fact, it can actually do children some good, Associate Professor Julie Green, a raisingchildren.net.au Director and Acting CEO of the Parenting Research Centre says, "When children are required to find something to do, they're forced to use their problem-solving skills, creative thinking and imagination to play".
Now, don’t get me wrong, when you go out the gate there are some things that you are required by Regulations to take with you, and this includes a fully stocked first aid kit, any required Epipens/medications and action plans, a list of attendees, emergency contact information for children and adults, plus a mobile phone in case of emergencies. These are the things required by the Regulations. That’s it. All the other stuff is literally unnecessary baggage.
I understand that you know your kids best and know what they need to be content and happy, and by all means, take what you want to take, but if you’re like me and find the thought of taking truckloads of stuff with you is overwhelming too much – to the point you’re feeling like it’s all just too hard - then don’t fear because, despite the misconceptions and what other people are doing, you really don’t need a toilet or the kitchen sink to have fun (and meet Regulatory requirements) in the bush or at the beach!
For those curious about going out without a toilet here’s what we do: Before we leave preschool, the children are encouraged to go to the toilet as part of their “getting ready to go” jobs. The children know that there are no toilets in the bush, so they are best to go before we leave. While we are out, if the need arises, the children can do a “bush wee”, there are no facili-trees for a number 2 so if that need arises, we do our best to hold on and get back to preschool quick smart. The need for a Number 2 has only ever come up once and let’s just say we made a quick dash back to preschool before the boom gates opened! While we don’t encourage bush weeing as a regular practice, sometimes it can’t be helped, and we find most children know how to bush wee as they do it at the park or in the backyard. With regards to food and drink, we eat and drink before we go and have lunch when we get back and on our longer bushwalks, there is a bubbler at the end of the walk where we can quench our thirst.
For me, getting out the gate is all about employing the KISS principle: Keep It Simple Stupid. When I go out the gate I only take what I need which usually very handily fits in one, sometimes two backpacks. I have been taking children out the gate for a long time, to both the beach and the bush, and I can’t recall a time when the children have ever asked me for equipment to entertain them nor have they been terribly bored, they have always been content with exploring the natural environment; climbing trees or rocks, exploring rock pools or creek beds, looking for caterpillars and watching ant trails, running and chasing but most of all, having fun with their friends and welcoming all the benefits nature has to offer.
“In nature, children learn to take risks, overcome fears, make new friends, regulate emotions, and create imaginary worlds.” Angela J. Hanscom, Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children