Why not have a nature play party?
Gather friends and family together at a themed nature play space, the beach or even an unstructured nature area for a fun and cost effective celebration to suit everyone. Involve the kids in the decision making and even though all parties require some planning and organisation, it can be a good idea to step back a little sometimes and let the kids control their own unstructured fun outdoors to explore and discover on the day.
Some themed nature play spaces:
Dinosaurs - Synergy Parklands Playground Kings Park; pirates - Mullaloo Beach pirate playground, Heathcote Reserve, Kings Park Lottery West Family area, Woodbridge Play Space; superheroes - webbed climbing playgrounds, Tomato Lake; kings and queens/ dragons and castles - Subiaco Theatre Park, Saw Avenue Variety Park and Lottery West Family area Kings Park; water theme - Rio Tinto Naturescape, Woodbridge Play Space.
- Family and friends share and spend time together being active.
- Fun for all ages and abilities.
- Gives chances for a variety of play to benefit wellbeing: social play, exploratory play, sensory play, rough and tumble play and role play.
- Saves money.
- An interesting and fun variety of areas to keep the kids happy to explore and discover.
- Can suit all seasons: water play, sheltered areas for all weather protection, space to get outdoors and active in winter, pathways for easy pram access and walking.
- Games and activities can be guided by an adult but nature play gives kids opportunities to experience unstructured play outdoors: negotiate rules with others, negotiate risk taking, explore and discover.
- Saves time and effort: not much to set up and pack away, get family and friends to help out.
- All based outside, so there’s less mess.
- Space for kids to exert energy and run, make noise and play (so they will also be tired out and should sleep well later on!).
Creative preparation ideas
- Before the party, make nature recycled paper to create invites and wrapping paper/ treat bags/cards/ gift tags (make sure the kids join in).
- Collect: petals, lavender, herbs or leaves to imprint in the paper. Put some essential oils or glitter into the paper pulp.
- Experiment with vegetable and fruit print paper: (perhaps grow the fruit and vegies first!) use potatoes cut into patterns (stars, shapes, Christmas trees), cut broccoli, strawberries or orange and dip into paint to print recycled paper - (hint: strawberries look like lovehearts).
- Make dye from vegie scraps and skins to colour recycled paper: experiment, ask questions - What colour dye will beetroot make? What about onions?
- Rain paintings on paper: drop food colouring on paper, put in light rain, see what happens.
- Collect flowers, herbs or leaves to press between paper and heavy books. This can take up to four weeks to dry, so plan ahead. Arrange and stick onto recycled paper for cards, invitations or gift tags.
- Decorate the tables with found objects and put them in jars to encourage kids to observe and discover.
- Collect flowers, feathers, shells or gumnuts to put into saved jars or in shallow dishes to decorate the tables - get the kids to help and let them play with the objects on the day.
- Use leaves as name place settings.
- Make wreaths or mobiles out of found nature objects to hang as decorations.
Nature party games and activity ideas for things to do:
(Remember not to pick or take wild nature growing in parks, check first about permits. It’s best to encourage kids to find and collect what’s fallen on the ground to respect the living environment.)
- Make a seed collage picture eg. Portraits of friends or a landscape of what they see. Draw a picture in the sand using sticks, use found dry nature objects to collage the picture e.g. leaves, seeds, flowers, stones - take a photo or kids can sketch to remember.
- Make binoculars out of cardboard tubes and string or recycled paper to go on a bird watching walk or to find small creatures or nests, kids can draw sketches of what they find.
- Try geocaching for some active and fun discoveries for everyone.
- Small bird or mini beast books make great keepsake party gifts (instead of lollie bags) so kids can identify what they find.
- Make a paper weight or pet rock out of found stones and paint. Perhaps use small branches or leaves as a paint brush.
- Make crowns to wear out of found branches, leaves and leaf fronds. Twist and thread on feathers, shells or flowers.
- Have a tree bark and gumnut/ shell race.
- For younger children, base activities on the Nature Play WA Passport missions.
- Make little boats out of leaves and sticks to float and race on shallow water.
- Make a stick frame to weave on long leaf fronds or seaweed strands. Attach leaves, feathers, shells etc.
- Go on a treasure hunt or beach comb to find sticks, leaves, feathers, shells, long seaweed fronds or dried leaf fronds for tying, to construct small boats; paint colour on clay to decorate as a snake, people or faces.
- Have a sandcastle competition at a beach location.
- Have leap frog races, wheelbarrow races (holding a partner's legs as they walk on hands) or roll down hills.
- Find different shaped leaves, perhaps make into the shape of a person or creature, place under recycled paper and rub over with pencil.
- Use sticks or stones to build into a tower game, try not to let it fall.
- Make a trail of leaves or string for kids to follow on a nature treasure hunt and discover things along the way; guess what animal belongs to footprints.
Tips for food:
- Areas with a BBQ are great to prepare food which will please younger and older party guests (who make great helpers).
- Finger food is easy for busy little hands to hold. For example: fruit skewers or pieces, slices, muffins, vegie and cheese sticks, dried fruit, mini quiches, sausages and meat/ vegie/ fruit kebabs on the BBQ with buns (rosemary sticks are good for skewers), decorate cupcakes as an easy alternative to a big cake.
- Use ice cream cones as edible containers for kids to hold on to food.
- Cold drink can be kept in an esky urn with a tap, easy for young children to help themselves.
- If you have an esky with ice, pop in some fruit juice icy poles.
- Check for shelter, BBQS, toilets, shade, parking, paths for prams, you may prefer fenced areas.
- Remember boots or gumboots for water play or climbing rocks and spare clothes for getting dirty.
- You may like to visit before the party to check out the area.
- In hotter months, it may be better to arrange for the party early or later in the day when it’s cooler.