Benefits of nature play
Children, today, are growing up in a far different world than the one many of us experienced and enjoyed when we were young.
Owing to technological advances, kids have become all too familiar with the clever but addictive devices that occupy their time, be it on smartphones, iPads or the internet.
Nature play aims to turn kids’ screen time to green time. This can be achieved by increasing the time children spend in unstructured play outdoors and in nature.
What are the benefits of nature play?
Well, for one it gets kids into a place they seem all too keen to avoid in a digital age – the outdoors. Sadly, these days all kids need to be well and truly stimulated is right there in games and apps and social networks and the whole concept of going ‘outside’ doesn’t seem enough.
For kids these days ‘outside’ is a bit boring; it’s just roads and trees that don’t morph into anything else when you click on them.
True, but what lays beneath the surface – under rocks and dead leaves, in the earth beneath the grass, in trees and in puddles and coastal rock pools is morphing all the time; in fact, it’s a wondrous world far more spectacular than anything the internet can conjure up. Because it’s real.
Should kids learn nature play?
Absolutely! Once your kids discover the wonderful life forms living in their world, the virtual world may well pale in comparison.
Well, let’s hope so. Not long ago, nature play was integral to childhood, a very real and hands-on discovery of the natural world quite literally at a grassroots level.
So where to go for nature play?
First, it has to be the right kind of place with plenty of natural diversity in both flora and fauna. If you live near a beach, rock pools make for the most wondrous nature plays imaginable.
It’s about sifting and observing and collecting. It’s also about climbing, digging and hiding.
Of course, there has to be a degree of caution in any nature play. But you can case the area first for any lurking crawlies even if they’ve probably scarpered the moment you arrived.
Kids can also use sticks to overturn rocks and sift through leaves. The key is to get your kids out there and be one with nature, like kids used to do.
Freedom is the key
It’s your kids’ nature play, not yours, so give them the freedom to explore and play at their own pace and in their own unique way. If they want to know what something is, by all means jump in.
Otherwise, sit back and watch as your kids become mesmerised by the natural world.
A final word on locations
For nature play to become a regular part of your child’s natural growth and development you can’t be doing day trips to the forest or beach every time; we’re all busy and soon enough, nature play might dwindle away to no play.
So be clever with your locations. Your own backyard might be a perfect place for nature play. Or any nearby green space, be it a park or the school playground. And yes, a beach if you can walk there.
The key to effective nature play is frequency. If your kids can easily get down and dirty with nature day after day, they’ll be happier and more versatile than if they sit in a room to browse the internet every day.
Make nature play natural play as soon as you can and enjoy the benefits.