Whether a half day or longer, a play walk is a walk into a wild area where the key focus is not the walk but the opportunity for free play. Typically it might be into woodland, moorland or to a beach (often associated with water). An area is identified with natural boundaries where possible, in which the children can play freely for an hour or more and staff can observe the creativity the physicality and the developing relationships with little or no intervention.
The walk itself is important on three counts. It is an opportunity to learn about the environment, whether it be the plant and animal life, the geography or the impact of humans on the landscape over time. It is also a time to engage the children in ‘Active risk-assessment’; to check that excited children understand the expectations in terms of behaviour towards each other and the environment. Finally it is an opportunity to set up a playful atmosphere by punctuating the walk with small challenges e.g. balancing along a fallen log playing ‘follow-my-leader over and around obstacles.
N.b. I am about to submit an article to ‘Horizons’ the magazine of the IOL (Institute of Outdoor Learning. expanding on this theme (just awaiting permission to use certain photographs).