We aim to foster an early connection to nature that is lasting and visible!

  • “We really enjoyed the Playgroup yesterday morning - the fire cooked apples, tasting bush food - sasparilla especially - and making fire with flint were my highlights!”

    – Jane

About Beetle Buddies

At the Centre for Ecological Learning, we know the importance of building a child’s connection to nature from a very young age, and so are proud to announce our new partnership with Nature Play Academy to bring you Beetle Buddies – Nature Workshops for 0-6 year olds.

Beetle Buddies is family friendly and designed for mixed ages. The children will lead our sessions which are mainly unstructured.

Activities offered may include; fire craft, bush cooking, whittling, shelter building, story telling, nature craft and exploration. Children will have access to a variety of tools and can choose to participate in the activities or play freely.

Each session will explore how children learn from following their internal ‘schema’ in play and nature. Parents will have access to information cards that highlight this process and help explain why children do what they do! We encourage families to attend all 10 workshops to meet the forest school principle of frequent and regular sessions in a natural environment.

Beetle Buddies is a 10-week program that runs during school terms on Fridays from 10.00am-12.30pm.


Beetle Buddies workshops are $15 per child or $20 per family per week. The 10-week program is $150 (single) or $200 (family). To book a place, 2 weeks in advance is payable upon enrolment. Otherwise it will be based on availability (max 14 families).

What to Bring:

For your safety and enjoyment we request that participants – young and old – wear appropriate clothing and carry a backpack with water, a snack, a towel and some spare clothes.

Items Needed:

  • Enclosed walking shoes
  • Water
  • Bottle
  • Hat
  • Morning Tea and or Lunch (session finishes at lunchtime – 12.30)
  • Sunscreen and insect repellent (we also have some available however if you have sensitivities it is best to bring your own)
  • The location has creek access so bring a towel/swim wear

About the Facilitator

Erin Chapman – Beetle Buddies Facilitator

Erin is a mother of three, a teacher, an advocate for children and a passionate nature playworker! With seven years experience in the field of early childhood Erin brings her knowledge of child development, play, curriculum design and early nature connection activities to CEL. 

Erin prides herself on her natural ability to relate to children, she is a passionate advocate for children’s rights to play in nature and an experienced outdoor educator. 2017 saw Erin embark on a new nature play path, she left the industry of child care to develop a new enterprise on the Coffs Coast – Nature Play Academy.

Nature Play Academy’s unique approach is focused on child directed play, our workshops provide children with a variety of opportunities to make discoveries, lead an experience in nature and build resilience. Our creative play programs empower confidence and connection in nature. Through the success of Nature Play Academy Erin has come to join CEL and implements the Beetle Buddies program, an early childhood nature play workshop operating during school terms.

Why Nature Play for Young Children?

The problem Beetle Buddies hopes to overcome is not new and is currently being addressed by many services and organisations across Australia and the world – the decline in outdoor play and rise in screen time and other sedentary activities. The term ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ is becoming more widely used across western society and describes a condition where children’s disconnection from the natural world affects their wellbeing and development. It is a real problem and one that needs to be addressed.

Children need sensory experiences

According to the field of embodied cognition (a topic of research in social and cognitive psychology), we build conceptual knowledge of real world phenomena from our sensory experiences. “The journalist Richard Louv describes this in his 2005 book ‘Last Child in the Woods.

Children need physical activity

Victoria Health’s 2016 Evidence Summary of Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour shares the national guidelines that state children between 0-5 need 3hrs of ‘light to vigorous’ physical activity per day for healthy development. This summary states that, “Most countries around the world report that less than 40 per cent of children take part in recommended levels of physical activity – although the levels vary widely between countries (Tremblay et al. 2014).

Improved concentration

We know that there is a direct link between children’s ability to concentrate and the amount of physical activity they do, there is lots of research advocating for extended recess time due to the rise in attention observed by teacher’s after children have had time to play outdoors. The Effects of the Natural Environment on Attention and Family Cohesion: An Experimental Study by Dina Izenstark and Aaron T. Ebata published in Children, Youth and Environments Vol. 27, No. 2, is a great example of how spending time outdoors in nature improves attention in children – this time can be as little as a 20min walk through the bush and if it is done regularly vast improvements across so many developmental areas are possible!

  • Outdoor play

    The children build a shelter in the bush

    Watch Video

Beetle Buddies Facilitator, Erin Chapman, is looking to connect with many parts of the community to raise awareness about this exciting new project. If you would like more information about Beetle Buddies or would like to get more involved, please contact Erin using the form below or phone her on 0408 607 140.

“My daughter and I have been attending the Bellingen Nature Play playgroup.  I am in awe about how the confidence and inquisitiveness of the children (and adults!) involved grows during each nature play session.  At this time of over precaution about children’s activities and the prevalence of computer/TV screens in children’s lives, Nature Play Academy brings families valuable connection with nature and digity of risk to our children’s play in a professional and safe, yet importantly explorative manner. Both the Educators, Erin and Helen, are very skilled and talented at working with the children in a child centred manner to ignite interest and extend their exploration of the natural world around them.

– Natalie