1. Nature has a very calming quality. It is known to decrease stress, and increase happiness. It is food for our minds. This is because it doesn’t place any demands on us, but it is still engaging. It is a must for our mental health and well being.
2. The natural exposure to light increases our vitamin D levels, which in turn improves our health. It’s vitally important here in Sweden, in winter, that play outdoors in nature continues as the light times of the day are so short! This means, at school, they are outdoors in almost any weather and nature play activities are given a high priority
3. Nature play activities are full of “loose parts”. These are things the children can play with that have no predetermined role. For example sticks. This allows children’s imaginations and creativity to be called upon and used. They can build, role play, make art, or use things as writing tools. There are no predefined limits. They also don’t become bored so fast, as with toys that have a predetermined role.
4. Children’s strength and muscle tone are improved as they lift, shift, climb, and move about in nature.
5. Nature play activities allow children to get dirty and “hands on” with nature. Research has shown that this exposure to dirt helps increase their immunity.
6. They are allowed to explore and investigate the environment, which leads to stimulation, awareness, and independence.
7. Playing outdoors in nature increases the physical effort used, therefore promoting a healthier way of living, and physically fitter children.
8. They will use a wide range of skills, utilising both large and small motor skills – good for development again.
9. Immersing the children in nature in such a positive way, helps nurture a love of nature.
10. Being in nature so much, and developing a bond with it is also good for nature. They will grow up wanting to protect it, respect it, and nurture it more from having been immersed in it. This in turn will help with future conservation.
11. Being outdoors in nature helps teach the children to enjoy the simple things in life, and to live in the present moment. It does this whilst also instilling a sense of awe and adventure.
12. Nature play naturally lends itself to more risk taking due to the environment the children are in. We are in danger of raising a risk averse generation, and this will have further consequences when they are older. By taking risks, they are learning to manage and control risks, and learn about risk management. Otherwise they will not take risks and then will be unable to manage risks, or control them. Their development suffers when they are not allowed to take risks, as children need it, crave it, and are natural risk takers.
13. Playing outdoors in nature increases communication skills and negotiating skills. They are able to work together better, enhancing these skills which are another important part of their development.
14. This environment also helps their problem solving skills more, due to the diversity of obstacles and options.
15. Nature play is much healthier for our children, making them happier, which in turn, naturally leads to happier parents too
15 Nature Play Activities:
- Mud Kitchens: Children love to get immersed in the mud and “cook” up their favourite recipes. Often the muddier the better. All they need are a few old utensils, pots, and bowls.
- Nature Weaving:This is creativity in the outdoors, and allows the children to experiment with various textures. You can do this on a small scale or a larger scale as shown in the photos.
- Flower Pounding:Flower pounding is a very effective way of doing art with nature. My trio love doing this because it is so easy and very effective. We also love seeing how our results change over the course of the four seasons.
- Air Dry Clay Figures:Make some figures out of nature supplies around you, plus a little air dry clay.
- Play shops: Selling things found in nature and using stones as currency.
- Go Puddle Jumping: A great rainy play activity that burns off a lot of pent up energy!
- Do some nature art: This can be done on a woodland floor or a beach, or anywhere else you can think of. Make a picture with whatever nature supplies you find lying around.
- Make Potions: Or “perfumes”or whatever takes their fancy. Our trio love to mix up all sorts of potions using berries, petals, and leaves…..just make sure they do not get carried away and ingest it!!
- Take Indoor Toys Out:. There is nothing more a dinosaur loves than exploring a garden 😉 Let the dinos romp around and watch the imaginations work their magic.
- Gardening: Designate some space for your little people to get growing. You do not need a garden for this either. There are lots of great things that grow well in pots.
- Tree Climbing: Let them take some risks (supervised…but not micro-managed) and watch their confidence and skill grow along with their courage.
- Bug & mini beast hunting: Have a little kit ready to go, which can be grabbed easily for when little eyes spot something they want to investigate further.
- Water Play: Let them loose with a container of water, cups, buckets, and anything else that would make playing with the water (supervised of course!) fun
- Pond Dipping: A net and a container are all that are required for this activity. If you have a way of looking up what is what, that is handy too.
- Play with sticks:They are the best toys ever and have so many functions. Let the child lead the game and let the stick become whatever they want.
We need to help encourage nature play activities by doing two simple things: lead by example and get outdoors. Also, keep any nature play supplies, such as bug kits, easily accessible and ready to go. Then watch the magic play happen and the fun begin.