Photos | Shellharbour Kidsfest attracts more than 3000

Messy fingerpainting, digging in vegetable patches and sleeping out under the stars eating hot campfire damper might have played a major part in childhoods past, but for kids today they’re all too rare experiences.

This is why more than 3000 Shellharbour children jumped at the chance to get their hands dirty at Kidsfest, which hosted hundreds of such events over seven days.

Now in its seventh year, the festival wrapped up on Saturday night, when children had the chance to camp at Killalea State Park and take part in fairytales, nature crafts, fire-side stories and witness an Aboriginal smoking ceremony.

Artistic director Ann Lehmann said the ceremony and Aboriginal dancing gave the children a chance to connect with their region’s ancient past.

‘‘Dancing would have been happening on that site up to 40,000 years ago, and they got to hear stories that have been passed down for hundreds of years,’’ she said.

‘‘This gives them a sense of place, identity and belonging.’’

She said Kidsfest was designed to give children - and their parents - hands-on crafts, activities and outdoor games they could take home and replicate in their day-to-day lives.

‘‘I think having kids out in nature, being engaged in lots of activity is really important for their development,’’ she said.

‘‘My daughter is four and a half and during the week her confidence improved exponentially: she went on monkey bars for the first time, and she jumped higher, leaped further and had more independence.’’


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