• Nature Play

    Beetle Buddies for 0-6 year olds and Wild Camps for 5-12 year olds




    Gary Snyder

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Why Nature Play for Young Children?

There is a decline in outdoor play and a rise in screen time and other sedentary activities in children worldwide. 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…

Sensory Experiences

According to the field of embodied cognition, 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”.

Physical Activity

Children between 0-5 years need 3 hours of ‘light to vigorous’ physical activity per day for healthy development (Victoria Health, 2016)

“Most countries around the world report that less than 40 per cent of children take part in recommended levels of physical activity”.(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.

  • “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

Nature Play Programs

CEL partners with Nature Play Academy to offer outdoor recreational programs designed to connect children with nature. Our facilitated nature play experiences guide children, families and educators through beautiful locations, use of bushcraft tools and creative nature activities..

Beetle Buddies

Weekly workshops

0-6 year olds

Wild Camps

School holiday day-camps

5-12 year olds

About Beetle Buddies

Family friendly and designed for mixed ages

Beetle Buddies is a 10-week program during school terms offering child-led sessions exploring play in nature. Activities offered 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.

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.


Fridays from 10.00am-12.30pm (during school terms)


Enjoy rock pool exploration, wattle scavenging and hill sliding at our new location at Tuckers Rock!

Beetle Buddies is enjoying a new location in Term 3, exploring rock pools and closely observe sea life – dolphins, whales, crabs, mollusks, sea snails, eagles and much more. The warm weather has brought about an increase in local bush tucker with loads of ripe Lilly Pilly’s and Native Asparagus available. We have been interacting with the changes in the tide and witnessing first hand how the weather transforms the landscape. The dunes and Coastal Banksia’s provide a natural playground for the children who are enjoying climbing, swinging and sliding!


$15 per child or $20 per family per week

To book a place, 2 weeks in advance is payable upon enrolment. Otherwise it will be based on availability (max 14 families).

Receive your 1st session FREE when booking for the whole term for Term 3 & 4 2018! 

What to Bring:

For your safety and enjoyment we request that participants – young and old – wear enclosed walking shoes and appropriate clothing and carry a backpack with:

  • Water
  • Towel/Swimwear
  • Spare clothes
  • 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)

Parent Library – NEW!

Beetle Buddies offers it’s families a parent library stocked with books for all audiences from fictional stories about nature connection to literature on child development and nature mentoring.

  • Outdoor play

    The children build a shelter in the bush

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About Wild Camps

Looking for a unique experience for your children these holidays?

Understand the important role; play and nature connection plays in your child’s life?

Our Wild Camp program is for you!!

The holiday program is based on playwork principles and is set entirely outdoors in nature! Children are encouraged to lead their experience and are provided with a variety of play based activities to choose from. Activities offered include: nature connection games, fire craft, whittling, shelter building, nature craft, exploration, primitive fishing, slacklining, swing play, storytelling and camp cooking.

Our wild camps are “drop and go”, children can be dropped off at the designated location from 9:00am and must be collected by 3:30pm. We also offer half day sessions and reduced rates for siblings. Parents are welcome to attend if necessary.

Our programs are designed for the sole purpose of nature connection and operate rain, hail or shine. The maximum amount of children in each group is capped at 16.

There is a ratio of 1 facilitator to 6 children in all sessions. Three highly qualified and experienced outdoor mentors with current First Aid and WWCC are present at all sessions.


Set days (dates announced during Term) – email Erin at natureplayacademy@gmail.com to join the Nature Play mailing list

9.00am – 3.30pm – full day

9.00am – 12.00pm – half day


Erin offers Wild Camps in a variety of locations- email Erin at natureplayacademy@gmail.com to join the Nature Play mailing list


Nature Play Academy requires all fees to be paid in advance. Individual sessions are $55 per child or $40 per sibling or half day session

What to Bring:

Welcome to Nature Play Academy!! For your safety and enjoyment we request all participants wear appropriate clothing and carry a backpack with water, a towel, spare clothes and plenty of snacks. We operate in all weather so rain gear is sometimes also necessary. We have lots of whittling tools and equipment which is checked regularly, we would ask that children leave their personal tools at home for everyone’s safety. We also ask for belongings to be clearly labeled and correctly stored (insulated food storage) as the children are responsible for maintaining and accessing their gear and food.

Items needed:

  • Enclosed walking shoes
  • Water Bottle
  • Hat
  • Morning Tea/Afternoon Tea and Lunch – in an insulated container
  • Sunscreen and insect repellent (we also have some spare available however if you have sensitivities it is best to bring your own)
  • Wet weather gear – we operate in all weather so it is important to be pr

Erin Chapman – Nature Play Coordinator

Contact Nature Play

For more info or to get more involved, please contact Erin Chapman using the form below or phone her on 0408 607 140.

  • Authentic experiences in nature

    develop childrens’ resilience and forms the heartfelt connection required for environmental stewardship.

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“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