Guest Blog by Jodie.
When you hear the term ‘nature play’ what do you think of? Is it the laughter of children squealing as they race the waves at the beach, or collecting ‘treasures’ down by the river bed or perhaps you just can’t stop thinking about the mess they’ll be in or the possibility of broken bones?
There are so many wonderful benefits to nature play and yes of course like all play/life there is always some risks, but the benefits almost always trump the risks. I once heard an amazing advocate for nature pay, Claire Warden, comment that “childhood is about pushing boundaries. It’s about testing yourself and there’s no better place to do that than in the natural world”.
Current studies are revelling all too often that our children are not as happy, healthy or emotionally resilient as they once were. So how then can nature play help our children and prevent these ever increasing issues?
Contact with nature has been associated with a number of health benefits for children and adults a like, including but not limited to, improved cognitive function, increased creativity, reduced attention difficulties, improved problem solving and intellectual development (Kellert, 2005). Not to mention the added benefits of physical activity and the great time they will have exploring.
Now let the fun begin. There are many simple and easy ways that we can increase our children’s exposure to nature and to reap all these amazing benefits. Here is a list of some of our favourite nature play activities that can be easily adjusted for different age groups.
* Read a book outside on a picnic rug under the trees.
* Let your baby feel gentle waves wash over their feet and toes. For older children you can race the waves or even count them.
* Find a low hanging branch or shrub and let them explore the leaves and/or flowers while you describe the colours, shapes and textures. To extend for older children, encourage them to describe what they are experiencing with their senses, you could even get them to draw a picture.
* Add water to a patch of dirt and let them squelch the mud between their toes and through their fingers. As they get older add utensils and pots and pans for an easy ‘mud kitchen’.
* Natural loose parts play. It can be fun for children to collect their own loose parts from nature and continue to add to their collection over time. These can include, gum nuts, pine cones, shells, feathers, bark, twigs, flowers, vines, stones, the possibilities are endless. Always be mindful of choking hazards for little ones. The beauty of loose parts is they can be used indoors or outdoors to spark their imaginations and creativity. You can also add in scented play doh or clay for even more opportunities for discovery.
We love to hear your nature play ideas and what your kids love to do in nature. Please tag us in your nature play adventures. We love the outdoors and you can follow along with our adventures @territorymama
Jodie is a mum to one very adventurous one year old living in Australia’s Northern Territory. She shares her family adventures via her blog and Instagram account Territory Mama. Living by the mantra shop small, play large, travel often, she hopes to inspire others to do the same