The Children at Play Network hosted its first Free Play Mash UP, a combination of a Free Play Day and Forest Play Group, at Bernheim last month. The play day was designed for the Louisville’s Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) and their children, all of whom were under 6. It was held at the Woodland Pavilion and the forested area across the street, which are the sites for the Muddy Boots Play Group, modeled after forest kindergarten that meets monthly at Bernheim. Around the cabin the children engaged in the type of loose play that is the hallmark of a Free Play Day, using boxes, sticks, ropes, tape, cedar blocks and tarps to build, create, collaborate and solve problems. Across the street at the forest site, children had free play in the woods, climbing and balancing on fallen logs, digging in the dirt and playing in the mud kitchen. They found worms and spiders and learned to be kind to even the smallest creatures.
One mom, Stephanie Stephanie Vittitoe, who brought her two children, Malachi, 5, and Naomi, 3, to play that day, reflects on her and her children’s experience below:
“My children and I were able to participate in the Free Play Day at Bernheim Forest with our MOPS group. The children were thrilled to get to play outside and I was just as thrilled to get to hang out with some moms while the kids played. Once we arrived the facilitators had loose parts out for the children to play with. My son jumped in and was digging and building with the items right away. My daughter on the other hand was a little more cautious about getting dirty, but before long she was also digging and enjoyed playing with the tools and supplies.
My children were very inquisitive, constantly exploring, and played without complaining. I heard the other moms saying it was the best play date ever, and I couldn’t agree more. All of the kids were continually engaged and the facilitators were awesome at making sure each child was involved and asked them questions to help them form creativity and ideas. My son greatly enjoyed finding a salamander while digging and my daughter enjoyed making moss soup and finding other items to add to it. We were in the forest for around four hours, with a break for snack and lunch. It was a great time and I highly recommend it!”