Two words: Outdoor playground. It should be so easy, but unfortunately it is not that easy here in Hong Kong. There are not many places that you can let your kids explore the surroundings and just play at a playground that is flexible, lets them independently choose what they do and learn to take/manage risks.
Most of the playground here are rigid structures, with signs that tell you what you can and cannot do. It is hard to develop your own game and rules here in Hong Kong – and this is where the team at Hong Kong Forest Adventures came up with such a cool idea: they take children into the forest to play, and just play – there is no programme or curriculum.
We joined the 852Play programme, which runs 2 or 3 hours, and it starts off with a session at their outdoor playground. This could be anything – on the day we visited, it started off with an outdoor kitchen for cooking and some palettes/wooden structures to climb on. The guys running the camp, followed the interests of the kids – there was a boy who wanted to climb, so they brought out bamboo sticks (think of typical building works in Hong Kong, the tall, bendy, flexible wooden structure that is everywhere) and tied them to ladders, crates and tire wheels to create an adventure playground for him.
A girl wanted to paint – so she collected rocks and the guys brought her some paint and cardboard boxes, and the little Picasso went off to paint everything in her vicinity. Another child wanted to colour some water, so that’s what he did in some pans and pots. My girl was happy to cook a sand soup with herbs and leaves, so she was free to collect anything nearby and Davie, who is the founder of Hong Kong Forest Adventures helped her to form sand dumplings to add to the soup. Everyone had fun!
After the first hour, everyone took a water and snack break (you have to pack your own snack) and changed into water shoes/clothes, to explore the river next to the village. After a 5-7 mins walk, we climbed into the water bed, onto and around stones and rocks, and played with the kids in the water. Some tried to catch fish, others tried to build a damn and my girl built stone sculptures on a rock. Everyone had fun and the time was up way too quickly.
It was a great nature play, completely led by the children – the adults only supported the kids when they asked for help/advise. Otherwise we had to follow the three rules: (1) Don’t say No. (2) Don’t say ‘be careful’ and (3) Don’t say ‘It’s dirty’. Just let the kids explore the nature – and have fun. And that is what we had! We were 8 kids and 3 staff members (plus parents) on a Thursday morning, but the class size varies between 8-16 kids and there are usually 1 staff per 6 kids around, if not more staff members!
Hong Kong Forest Adventures runs several different programmes – we joined 852Play which is suitable for 1.5-7 year olds and costs 460HKD for 2 hours. It is not cheap, but it is an adventure to remember. Other programmes include ‘Little Forest Artist’ (2-5 years), adventure playground (2-8 years), the workshop (5-8 years) -> more info is on the website.
It is easy to get to, we took the MTR to Tai Shui Hang and then walked 7 mins from Exit B. You will have to bring spare clothes and be prepared for hot/wet weather, as everything is outdoor.
What else is there to know? The activities take place regardless of the weather (except when there is a typhoon of course!) and they are supported by English and Cantonese speaking staff members.
Hong Kong Forest Adventures
2D Tai Shui Hang North Road, Tai Shui Hang, Hong Kong
Tel: 5238 2377