Is Your Child ROAM Ready?
Our Free Roamer sessions are targeted at children under 12 to experience unstructured, unsupervised play in the natural environment, in groups. Young children need guidance to develop appropriate social and risk-taking skills before they are ready for this type of play. The age at which children desire, and are ready for Free Roamers varies. In our experience, most children are ready sometime during Reception or Year One of school.
We have developed some advice for parents and carers, to help you decide if your child is ready, and how you can prepare them for their first session. The list below is not exhaustive nor should you feel you have to be confident in answering ‘yes’ to each question. It’s for guidance only. It is important that you feel comfortable letting your child participate.
Does your child:
- Know how to keep themselves safe by following rules such as staying in groups of three or more, and staying within the boundaries of the park?
- Know what to do if a dog runs up to them?
- Know what to do if they discover something dangerous (e.g. broken glass)?
- Understand what to do if another person is acting inappropriately near them or if they feel uncomfortable by a nearby stranger?
- Respect that parks can be busy places full of lots of different people?
- Have some idea of how to resolve conflicts with their peers? (Like us adults, they may still be developing this skill!)
- Know how to take care of themselves and others. For example, if they or a friend scrapes their knee, they know to seek help from an adult.
Please don’t worry, we don’t expect perfect children!
It’s through playing with other children without adult interference that youngsters learn how to make friends, sort out quarrels, and work together. They also learn how to take ‘safe risks’ and make their own judgements, so developing independence and self-reliance.
Many parents have been surprised how responsible their children can be when given the ability to make their own decisions.
Preparing Your Child for a Session.
It’s very rare that children come across any hazards, especially as a site walkover is undertaken on the day, before the sessions.
However, in addition to reinforcing what to do in the situations listed above, it helps if parents prepare children by:
- Familiarising your child(ren) with the Golden Rules and examples of situations that might arise that involve remembering the rules:
- Stay within the park’s boundaries
- Stay in groups of 3 or more
- Look after yourself, each other and nature
- Showing them pictures of things they may come across that are dangerous, that they should alert a volunteer about (e.g. syringes, broken glass, hazardous substances).
- Reinforcing to them how important it is not to eat anything or lick their fingers e.g. berries, mushrooms, fungi.
We aim to foster a ‘culture of care’ within the session so that the older ones include the younger ones, and everyone has someone to play with. We have an optional ‘buddy system’ for children who are new to ROAM.
What To Bring
It’s best for the children to wear old clothes as they are very likely to get muddy and dirty. In the wetter weather please wear wellies/waterproof clothes. In cold weather, it can be a good idea to bring a spare set of clothes to change into at the end – including socks!
Parents, please bring a charged mobile phone so that we can contact you during the session. Wet wipes, hand sanitiser and a snack and drink for your child can also be useful.
We ask that the children do not bring electronic equipment, including mobile phones, toys or sports equipment. We find that if children bring their own belongings, this can distract them from playing within nature and all the benefits that immersing themselves in the great outdoors brings!