Category Archives: Play

Great Outdoors Colorado 100 things to do before you're 12

No.5 Roll down a hill.

I stumbled across the “100 Things To Do Before You’re 12” list in 2017 and quickly got to ticking off things I had done before I was 12.  Even though I was raised back in the olden days, without smartphones or Ipads to distract me, with parents and grandparents advocating outdoor play, I could not tick off all the activities. Well, some of them were impossible like No. 99 Make a snow angel. I grew up in a tropical country. This list has since become my “100 Things To Do With Kids While Outdoors”.

Since finding this list, I’ve looked for opportunities to get back to basics and share the outdoor fun with Andrew and the kids.  We’re no way near ticking off all the boxes, nor do we aim to. I am happy and content that the following activities have become ingrained in my family’s everyday life, not just an incidental part of our walking trips:

No. 1 Skip rocks.

No. 5 Roll down a hill. 

No. 6 Go on a picnic. 

No. 9 Tightrope walk on a log. 

No. 10. Blow dandelions in the wind.

No. 21, Jump into a pile of leaves.

No. 23 Splash in puddles.

No. 31 Find a walking stick. 

No. 49 Find shapes in clouds. 

No. 65 Go birdwatching.  

While the list is not inclusive of all the outdoor experiences for every child around the world, most of the activities on the list are general enough to start with. Do the kids love the activities? Mine do!

Adults can join in the fun too. Here’s the haiku-inspiring hill roll my brother shared with my children recently. 

Haiku No. 5 by Patrick Estoesta

Ditch the bubble wrap.

Tuck your chin, roll down that hill. 

Connect with Nature.

Want to get started? Click here to get the PDF version of the Great Outdoors Colorado 100 Things To Do Before You’re 12 list. If you are based in the United States, click here, to win free stuff as your kids complete the activities.

Bunya pine nuts

Bunya Bounty

The Bunya pine, Araucaria bidwillii, is native to Queensland but can also be found in other parts of the Australian east coast. The process of Aboriginal cultural migration over thousands of years, as well as their towering appeal in parklands, has led to these trees thriving in parts of New South Wales and Victoria. These slow-growing  and long-lived trees have special significance for some Aboriginal groups,  with gatherings and festivals being held at times when Bunya nuts are in abundance.  In the past few weeks, our local Sydney crop swap group has been abuzz with Bunya pine tree sightings. While some members shared recipes and photos of their bunya bounty, others zealously guarded their tree locations, with most located in public spaces.

Photo of Bunya pines taken by Wayne Harris from the Queensland Environment and Heritage Protection website.

Last Sunday, as we were walking back to our car after a play at a playground, Andrew looked around us and excitedly announced that the park was surrounded by Bunya pines. He combed the grass for any fallen pine cones and sure enough, he stumbled across remnants of a pineapple looking green cone that had dropped to the ground. The impact of the fall from height must have smashed it, saving us having to pry open its spiky skin. The children picked up chunks of the cone while Andrew peeled open each piece to retrieve the nuts. “It’s like taking out durian seeds, but less smelly,” he said as our growing pile of Bunya nuts grew. 

Taking out bunya pine nuts from the cone at Ashfield Park.
We got around 80 nuts from the one partial pine cone.

Over the week, Andrew and I combed Google and Youtube for ways to prepare our Bunya nuts. The best takeaway message from all our online research was: do not dry the pine cones. Of course, by the time we got to this information, our nuts were already two days sun-dried. Our mistake led to an afternoon of cathartic smashing with mortar and pestle on my part. The raw ones I smashed emitted a faint smell like that released when peeling a green mango while the boiled ones gave out an earthy and nutty smell.   

Laying out the bunya pine nuts. Do not dry bunya nut pines!
My daughter laying the nuts out for drying. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but this is apparently bunya nut preparation mistake #1.
Do not dry bunya nut pines, this makes them hard to crack open.
Our chickens and the neighbourhood birds left the nuts alone.

The nuts can be fried, boiled, powdered, roasted, or even eaten raw. We ended up roasting and boiling the nuts within the week of picking. The boiled Bunya nuts tasted like chestnut with a mashed potato creaminess while the roasted ones were a bit too raw  for my liking.  We shared half of the nuts we gathered because we only needed a few nuts for the dishes we had planned though the week. The Bunya season will continue well until March so we are looking forward to more foraging and crop sharing and swapping for the weeks to come.  

Making pesto using our Bunya nut pine bounty.
In the great big circle of crop swapping, I swapped my dad's snake beans for a bunch of fresh basil from my cousin Carlo's garden to make pesto.

My family’s chance encounter with that one Bunya pine cone has led to a week of memorable harvesting, cooking, and community sharing experiences. Our encounter has also led us to scrutinise other pines we have come across in our walks since. This increasing awareness for a particular tree and its uses will surely lead to more interesting and rewarding walks for my family this year. 

Would you like to look for your own Bunya nuts? We are aware of some Bunya pine trees around Ashfield Park and in Western Sydney University, Parramatta Campus. We would love to hear and learn from you on how you went on your foraging adventures!

Playing With Loose Parts

When we go bush walking with our kids, we always come across a multitude of natural loose parts – rocks, stumps, sand, twigs, bark, logs and water to name a few. They come with no specific instructions and the children alone can decide on how to use and/or combine materials. Playing with loose parts can assist in the holistic development of children because:

  • Loose parts can be adapted and manipulated in many ways, exercising children’s gross and fine motor skills.
  • Loose parts can be used in any way the children choose, encouraging creativity.
  • Loose parts encourage open-ended conversations between multiple players, allowing children to practice social, emotional, and language skills.

Loose parts in nature come for free, but we always ask our kids to leave anything they pick up for the creatures, great and small, who may need them. We also don’t have room in the car anyway. Of course, Andrew and I are always at hand to guide play, just in case sticks, turn into ninja nunchucks.

“Giving meaning to loose parts requires us to think about the possibilities of how a child learns and consider the materials and environments she uses. Loose parts create endless possibilities and invite creativity. For example, if a child picks up a rock and starts to play, most likely that rock can become anything the child wants it to be. Imagination, creativity, curiosity, desire, and need are the motivation of loose parts.”

– Mincemoyer, C (2016), “Loose Parts, What Does This Mean

Moon Walk: The Almost Circle Moon

“Take the day and leave us the moon ‘carpe noctum’ and we will seize the night.” – Atticus

I recently read Richard Louv’s book, Vitamin N, and was inspired to incorporate some of his practical outdoor activities in my family life.  I started with the moonwalk: a winter walk on the night of a full moon. Our first moonwalk was on the afternoon of my day off, when  the sky was still blue and on the cusp of darkening, with streaks of pink clouds on the horizon. Earlier that afternoon, as I parked into our driveway, I looked back at the rear view mirror hoping that the kids were asleep so we didn’t have to go on the moonwalk in the 9°C weather.  The kids were both wide-eyed, twisting and turning, eager to get out of their car seats. With their high-pitched voices they announced that we didn’t have to go on a moonwalk because they could see the moon outside the car window anyway. I assured them that the walk would be quick and that we would bring a flashlight and a scooter. We rummaged through the layers of toys, books, and dirty clothes on their bedroom floor – no flashlight. We took out everything in our boot – no scooter. We just had to make do with what the outdoors had to offer.

Continue reading Moon Walk: The Almost Circle Moon

Would you let your kids play with fire?

Dutch organisation is encouraging parents to allow their children to be involved in risky play. Risky play is defined as thrilling and challenging forms of play  that involve a risk of physical injury and this is usually done outdoors. Risky play involves allowing children to experience height and depth, movement and speed, den building and using tools, and fire. Something to keep in mind for the next walk?