How do I book & register my interest?
You need to register your interest via our newsletter and you will be the first to hear about any new programs added to our website. We release term programs approximately 6 weeks before it commences so look out for it in your inbox. There is a huge demand in our programs and our bush playgroups book out quickly, sometimes within a few hours. If you head to our programs page – Bush Playgroup, Bush Kids Forest School or Forest School, it will clearly show whether there are spaces left on each location page or whether the session is full. Most of our programs are fully booked before the commencement of the term so it is advised to book early.
Do you have a waitlist?
No, we do not have wait lists but we always have spaces that become available for new families to join us each term so look out for updates via our newsletter.
Where are your bush programs located?
Our bush playgroups are located all over Melbourne, as well as on the Mornington Peninsula at various bush, beach and nature reserves.
Do you run a school holiday program?
Yes, we do and you can see our full school holiday program here which are released via our newsletter each term.
When can we book for the next term of bush playgroup?
Bookings open approximately 6 weeks prior to the Victorian school term starting and announced via our newsletter. All current playgroup families are given preference and an opportunity to re-book, and because of our high rebooking rate (up to 70%), there are usually only a few spaces available for each playgroup.
Do you offer casual sessions or a trial?
For our term playgroups, we only accept full term bookings and no casual or trial attendance. However, we do occasionally offer casual spots if the playgroup is not full. We do run one off bush playgroups over the school holidays and sometimes during the term for those families wanting to trial a playgroup. If you sign up for our newsletter then you will be notified when playgroup bookings open.
How much does it cost to attend?
The cost per week for our Bush Playgroup program is $25.00 per child and only an extra $5 for siblings to attend. Each term has a different number of weeks so the cost of playgroup depends on how many weeks there are in the term.
For casual sessions, it is $30 per child.
Our Bush Kids Forest School program is $35 per session for a two hour program run by a qualified environmental educator, teacher, early childhood educator or forest school leader and only an extra $5 for siblings.
Forest School is a three hour drop off program and costs $55 per session per child. All our Forest School programs are run by a qualified and experienced environmental educator, teacher, early childhood educator or forest school leader.
What age group is bush playgroup suitable for?
The Bush Playgroup programs are suitable for children aged 1-4 years, however we welcome all ages around that age range. If you feel ready to join our playgroups then you are most certainly welcome.
Our Bush Kids Forest School program are for children aged 3.5 years+ that want something slightly more challenging and learning focused. These Bush Kids sessions are good for those children that may have been coming to playgroup for a year and are ready for the next step.
We also run weekly Forest School programs at Arthurs Seat on the Mornington Peninsula, Westerfolds Park in Templestowe and Gresswell Forest in Bundoora for homeschool and kindergarten aged children aged 4- 8 years.
Can younger babies/siblings attend?
Yes, younger siblings can attend (under 12 months free) and it is recommended that you bring a sling or carrier for your baby when bushwalking as most locations aren’t pram friendly. Plus we want the children to be moving their bodies, crawling around and looking up at the sky and trees so prams are generally not advised unless you absolutely need to bring one for the walk.
Do you offer make up session if I can’t attend?
We do not offer make up sessions (or friend fill-ins) if you can’t attend. This is for many reasons but we simply couldn’t keep track of the hundreds of families that are currently joined and attending our playgroups each week. Safety is our utmost priority, to ensure safe numbers and the same group each week with the same facilitator who has built a relationship with the children and families. We also have limits on numbers for our permits for certain areas.
What should we bring to bush playgroup?
A change of clothes is always a good idea, gumboots, wet weather gear such as waterproof pants and raincoats in winter. Sun hats, sunscreen, insect repellent, plenty of water to drink, snacks and lunch. The kids can get very dirty and hungry at bush playgroup as they are busy and using lots of energy! You will be sent an email with everything you need to know and bring to your program.
What happens at bush playgroup?
The facilitator will meet and greet you at the agreed location on a mat with a nature-based activity set up as well as some loose parts play in our sensory kitchen. We start out with free play which is a vital part of our program so that the children get to gently settle into the space and follow their interests. This free play is also important for developing social and communication skills in children. We have a different theme each term and weekly activity based on the seasons. This can include craft, art, construction and even sometimes science! Then we head off for a bush walk, led by our experienced facilitator who encourages the use of gross motor skills (climbing, balancing, jumping, rolling etc) as well as learning about our natural environment and developing sensory awareness.
What is the role of the bush playgroup facilitator?
Our Eco Explorers facilitators are highly qualified and experienced nature play educators and come from various backgrounds such as early childhood, teaching, environmental science and working with families. You can read more about our amazing team of facilitators here. They are there to support and guide you and offer you ideas for nature play activities for your child to enjoy. Parents are always 100% responsible for their child at all times and it is your responsibility to decide what type of risky activities you feel comfortable with your child partaking in. Remember you know your child the best.
What is Forest School?
Forest School is a weekly program that we run in the bush where children aged 4 – 8 years are dropped off into the bush and spend 3 – 3.5 hours of learning, exploring, building, creating, storytelling, Indigenous games and unlimited free play. The sessions are facilitated by three experienced and qualified forest school leaders.
The children learn how to use real tools, how to safely navigate in the bush, identify plants and wildlife, learn about bush safety, build bush cubbies and how to assess and take risks.
The cost for forest school is $55 per session, per child. Find out more about our Forest School program here. We can also run our Forest School sessions for your organisation, school, kindergarten or service.
Snake & other bush safety information.
Eco Explorers has a strong snake safety policy which all members must adhere to. Our facilitators are trained in snake safety and first aid and all have their level 2 first aid training and carry a first aid kit with them at all times. Our playgroup facilitators will discuss any safety concerns and information with you at the beginning of the term and your session but it is your responsibility at all times to ensure that you are close to your child and able to intervene when needed. You also need to ensure the safety of the group, so during summer periods, children are not allowed to run off or ahead, away from the group. The children learn about snake safety and are regularly encouraged to stomp the ground when walking to scare off snakes.