US-founded nature play program TimberNook opens in Australia with first centre in the Hunter

Glorious mud: Tash Treveton with tots Reid Hinshelwood, Ivy Wadsworth and Wynton Birt at TimberNook Newcastle. Picture by Simone De Peak
Glorious mud: Tash Treveton with tots Reid Hinshelwood, Ivy Wadsworth and Wynton Birt at TimberNook Newcastle. Picture by Simone De Peak

AUSTRALIA has gained its first TimberNook – the US-founded early childhood movement that encourages free and “transformative” nature-based play for children – in the Hunter.

Business partners and veteran early childcare educators Natashja Treveton and Nicole Halton have opened a TimberNook space on a “wild” six-acre block in Garden Suburb.

TimberNook was founded in the US by paediatric occupational therapist Angela Hanscom, whose observations of school children led her to believe that they were weaker and their balance systems were underdeveloped compared to kids of previous generations; with teachers complaining that students were more aggressive, inattentive and falling out of their seats.   

Believing that kids simply weren’t having enough outdoor play, she began TimberNook, a program that integrates sensory experiences, imagination and nature for all kids and now runs in five countries. 

Ms Treveton and Ms Halton, business partners in Gateshead business Inspired Early Childhood Consultancy, which also acts as a Family Day Care coordination unit to support 70 educators nationally, learnt of Timbernook as part of their training research and quickly realised it was in line with their belief in the power of nature in childhood development. 

During her TimberNook training in New Zealand, Ms Treveton says she saw the power of nature as young cohorts came out of their shells and developed at their own pace. 

“It’s complete nature immersion: we are there in all weather unless it’s dangerous,” she says. “There are managed risks that are beneficial for children,” she says.

She and Ms Halton have exclusive rights for the Hunter and Lake Macquarie and hope to open other sites across the country, where their educators are based.  

The Tiny Ones program is open to a maximum of 12 children below preschool age, while vacation care programs cater to no more than 24 children.

TimberNook Newcastle is available for other centres to hire and will also cater to birthday parties.