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Outdoor Play: A Prayer for Mushroom Hill

Carol Duffy


Tuesday 02 August 2016

“Soon they discovered a very big hill with mushrooms growing all over it, and they very aptly named it “mushroom hill”.  Deansrath Family Centre winner of our Innovation in Outdoor Provision Award  shared with us their story of the children experiencing their local park. One part of their story refers to the hill. Images and stories mean different things to different people. I find myself really drawn to these images of outdoor play – why I wonder?

Malaguzzi’s hundred languages of children speaks to me, and as I look at this ritual of childhood I find myself smiling and finding a simple joy within. For when I look with my heart and my head I see willing athletes with endurance, innately pushing their breathless bodies to the top, for deep inside they know that the gain will outweigh any breathlessness they may endure.  Nature and evolution have conspired to get them to the top as they anticipate the exhilaration of running back down. I can almost hear their screams as they struggle to regain control, and stop.  Do you remember it? Starting off gingerly and then feeling an inside recklessness that turned into bravery that turned into competence. The feeling, the fun, the screams as you safely lost control of your speeding body. How you wrestled with gravity and every sinew to regain your balance and bring yourself to a stop - all so that you could quickly do it all over again. This is the stuff of childhood.


Look at them, look at the freedom, the space, look at the simplicity, yet the magnificence of it. These children are blissfully unaware that this is the stuff of physical development, of aerobic stamina and strength, of gaining confidence in their bodies’ abilities. Thankfully for them, this is the stuff of fun, of dreams, of imagination, of possibility. This is their time to be the conquerors of that hill, their time to wallow in the fun of it, to share the camaraderie of it. This is their time to be a child playfully exploring the wonders of their world. We adults of course may need to understand the developmental and learning outcomes this type of experience provides but for the sake of our children’s childhoods I pray we don’t forget what it truly means for them, what it truly means to be a child faced with all the possibilities of “Mushroom Hill”.


Thanks Deansrath for reminding me. My inner child awakened, I’m off right now to find myself a hill. Maybe you can join me and we’ll run and laugh like the years have never passed.

Take a look at our ideas for outdoor play page here, it is full of great ways to encourage children to play outdoors. 

We would love to hear your experiences of children in your settings enjoying the local park or outdoor space, or your memories from your own childhood. Please share in the comments section below. 

2 comments Comments

2 Responses

  1. Marlene McCormack says:

    Great piece! In reading this blog I can relive the sensations, joys and fears of running down hills as a child – I can feel it in my stomach. Of course I can also think about it as a Mum watching my children run and roll down the hill in Bushy Park, sometimes managing it and sometimes not. This is a timely reminder to afford children opportunities to rock and roll!

  2. Carol Duffy says:

    Thanks Marlene. When it comes to this type of play lets hope there is more roll than rock… You are spot on of course, those feelings in the pit of our stomachs are different depending on whether we are the child or the adult responsible for the child. Sometimes it’s not only the child that needs to start with a little hill, building up the adults (parents or educators)confidence to let go is just as important. Talking with the child about how one hill is better or safer than another gives the child knowledge and skill that they can then learn to use for themselves. Then we can all rock and roll together.

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