We are Energy-Wielders and Sculptors

Imagine a wizard holding a wand or a staff that wields magical spells. This is how we imagine what we do at our programs, particularly during our KIN Village school holiday season. Instead of wielding magic though, our Nature Playworkers wield joy, laughter, action, restful conversation, wonder, and story. Instead of the magic wand blasting a puff of smoke, we enchant with running in a chasey game with a cheeky smile and sound effects, sneaking up on unsuspecting children ready to attach a clothes peg to them, sharing jokes and stories, ‘stealing’ hammocks, whittling sausage sticks, quietly building objects in the carpentry zone, and relaxing on the beach digging in the sand.

This energy-wielding creates magic in our programs – that special quality that is difficult to define but is undoubtedly experienced. Sometimes the energy is high, rambunctious or silly, and other times it is calm, serene and connected. Our KIN Village staff, specifically our teenage Junior Playworkers and Junior Mentors, are particularly good at joining in with children. They match the energy levels of the children and guide them with the soft mentorship of an older sibling.

In addition to being energy wielders, we are also energy sculptors; we observe the energy of the whole community and small groups within it, identify the physical and emotional needs of the children and make decisions about the next steps we can take to build community. At the whole community level, this sculpting involves decisions including when to change from practising lighting fire to preparing to cook sausages, when to reopen the cubby space, or when to bring out the pool noodles to start an epic battle. With keen eyes and ears we notice the engagement of children and how their bodies move, we listen to the sound of the group – a quiet focussed hum of engagement or rising volume of energy bubbling. On a smaller scale, we watch when smaller groups might need an adult to play alongside them to support equal power between the children or when a child who has been coming regularly is ready for extra responsibilities.

Over our nine years of providing KIN Village, we have built quite a community! There are children who have been coming to KIN Village for many seasons who carry with them the culture and stories of the community. They have become energy wielders too. They have learned when it is good for their bodies to engage in different actions and activities and help support the children around them. They bring stories and games of past adventures and initiate these again within the community of children; this is energy-wielding from within.

When we get this energy wielding and energy sculpting right, we sense the children ‘drop into’ the space. The beginning of a KIN Village session involves a lot of ‘doing’, especially during winter. Children begin the day building water-proof shelters, learning and practicing using a fire steel, finding and crafting sausage sticks, and cooking sausages on the fire. It is very much an action and challenge-based day. Then, after all this ‘doing’ together, we open up the different spaces again, and children return to enjoy being in their cubby, exploring the beach and skipping stones or digging for clay. They finish painting or tinkering and essentially ‘hanging out’ together as a new group of friends. This part of the day is about ‘being’. Sometimes it can involve crazy running around and battles too. When a day is built on waves of energy from learning new tasks, being physically active, having sensory input and resting and ‘being’ in nature, the day becomes restorative rather than reductive in all our energy.

One of key aims with the KIN Village program is to provide a space for children to find flow and move with their natural energy. This ‘looks like’ children going home after a day in nature with a sense of contentment, likely feeling tired but not grumpy and exhausted. This is evidence children have activated their senses in restorative ways. We often receive feedback from parents with comments indicating there is a different spark to their children after a day of KIN Village; they have come home rested and connected. During these holidays we have received some wonderful testimonials from parents who have witnessed the effect of this energy-wielding and energy-sculpting on their children and have described exactly what we set out to achieve. To say we are thrilled would be an understatement!

“I just wanted to say thanks very much for looking after my kids yesterday. They had the best time (my son gave it a 9.99 out of 10)! I was anticipating them to be a bit cranky and tense after such a long day out, but they were uncharacteristically calm when I collected them and stayed that way even after we got home. I have already booked them for another day during the September school holidays.”

“Our kids attended Kin Village today and I just wanted to give you some feedback. The kids had the most amazing time! They were so happy when they came home and had so much chitter chatter the whole way home and through the evening. Most of all, we noticed how kind they were being to each other and just how generally happy they were. Also, as parents, it is so nice knowing that the kids are outside when they are in a holiday program, rather than inside the whole time. It totally helps with the mum guilt! So, I just wanted to thank you for running this program. Our two have already asked us to enrol them again next holidays, which we definitely will do.”

What’s more, this effect is also true for our staff members too! A day at KIN Village as a member of the staff team demands a lot of physical and mental energy. Time and again we find that when our teams support each other by taking on different roles, when we watch for and support different energy, when we jump into crazy games or relax and connect within nature alongside the children, we also go home tired but content.

We are so honoured to have the opportunity to provide this experience to the children of Perth and to witness the restorative effects of nature and community within a supported environment of energy wielding. Maybe it is actually magic…

“You and the team are superstars. To create such a joyful adventure in such weather is actually a bit magical. Thank you.”