Where are the bush playgroups located?
Our bush playgroups are located in Melbourne in various bush and nature reserves. You can view our current locations here.
When can we book for the Term 1 2019 bush program?
Bookings will be opening approximately in the first few days of December 2018 and announced via our newsletter.
How do I book & register my interest?
Bookings open approximately a 4 – 6 weeks prior to each term commencing (see VIC term dates) and can be done directly on each location page. We strongly suggest you register your interest via our newsletter as many spaces fill up when we send our newsletter out. We also have a high number of rebookings from precious terms (previous families are always given the first option to book) so often there may only be a few spaces that become available, unless we open up a new playgroup. If you head to our playgroups page, it will clearly show whether there are spaces left on each location page or whether the session is full. Most of our playgroups are fully booked before the commenced of term so it is advised to book early.
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 run casual 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 term playgroups is $20.00 per child and $10.00 extra (50% OFF) for each additional sibling. Each term has a different number of weeks so the cost of playgroup depends on how many weeks there are in the term. For example, Term 1 is usually 8 weeks but Term 4 is 11 weeks so there is a slightly higher price.
For casual sessions, it is $25 per child, $35 for two siblings and $40 for 3 +
What age group is bush playgroup suitable for?
The bush playgroups are suitable for children aged 1-5 years, however we welcome all ages around that age range so it really depends on you. If you feel ready to join our playgroups then you are most certainly welcome.
We also run Bush Kinder sessions for children aged 3+ that want something slightly more challenging and learning focused. These Bush Kinder sessions are good for those children that may have been coming for a while and are ready for the next step.
We also run a weekly Forest School at Gresswell Forest in Macleod for homeschool and kindergarten aged children aged 4- 8 years.
Can younger babies/siblings attend?
Yes, younger siblings can attend (under 14 months free) and it is recommended that you bring a sling or carrier for your baby when bush walking 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 familes that are currently joined and attending our playgroups each week. Safety is our upmost priority, to ensure safe numbers and the same group each week with the same facilitator who has built a relationshop with the children and families. We also have limts 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!
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 for a mud 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 at 11am, 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. They are there to support and guide you and offer you ideas for nature play activities for your child to enjoy. Parents are still 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 (currently at Gresswell Forest in Macleod) where children aged 4 – 8 years are dropped off into the bush and spend 3 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, a primary school teacher and early childhood educator.
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. We move to a different location each term to minimize our environmental impact and each term has a new program. It is expected that children continue each term and attend forest school for a year, although occasionally places become available during the year. Our next intake is for 2019 and will be announced via our newsletter.
The cost for forest school is $400 for a 10 week term ($40 per session).
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.