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Planning Indoor Spaces for Outdoor Programs

You might have heard our exciting news: Wilderplay is coming to Mason County in the next weeks! After a break from leading direct-service programming, I'll be offering a private infant/toddler/preschool care program right here in our home woods.

Our ultimate goal of providing *true* outdoor programming will be a long-term growth process. Because I've made the decision to include infants in our program, and because we live in Michigan where the winters give us short days and cold temps, and because we work within the health and safety regulations of state licensing, we will, in fact, be indoors for parts of the day. Over time as our group grows up and our plans roll out, we'll be moving to full outdoor programming.

For now, we're planning a nature-connected, authentic home space for meals, naps, and play time when we're sent inside after time in the cold and wet weather. Follow along with our goals by implementing the tips below!

Planning a Nature-Connected Indoor Space

1. When possible, seek out a space that invites nature in. Large windows, southern exposure for lots of natural light, and doors that upon up directly to the outdoors are wonderful.

2. Choose neutral, natural colors for walls, flooring, and furnishing. The color pallet in nature has hard-wired our brains to feel calm and safe. Mimic this color scheme whenever possible!

3. Source furnishing made of real wood. A second-best option is painted or veneered furniture, but nothing provides the sensory feedback of a natural grain wood feel.

4. Include natural-material bins and baskets for storage. I love to use rope baskets and cloth bowls- they don't have to be replaced as often as wood baskets that are inevitably stood on, sat in, or worn as hats.

5. Choose play items made from natural materials that are relevant and authentic to the child's experience. We have wood blocks, a wood barn, wooden animals, and wood cars. We have stuffed birds, squirrels, and other woodland animals. We have wooden wave, mountain, and rainbow stackers. We love our cloth log animal home and our farm animal wood puzzles. We have very, very few plastic items in the room!

6. Provide a home like setting. Authenticity is important and no early childhood environment should feel like a classroom disconnected from the culture of the group. Foster authenticity by including materials that reflect the community and home lives of the children in your life.

7. Keep a minimalist approach. Rotate materials but allow shelves to be clear of clutter. Base your materials & books on the season and weather outside to further connect your indoor space with the natural world.

See you out there!



When not working with children and their caregivers, "Lady" Lisa and her family enjoy exploring the woods, lakes, and beaches that surround their northern Michigan home. She holds a masters degree in early childhood studies, a graduate certificate in teaching adults in the early childhood field, and accreditation in wilderness safety and the forest school ethos.


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