If you are following our
journey here, you are probably already an advocate for nature play. Perhaps you
have seen the joy it brings to your children, or observed them engage in deeper,
more imaginative play while outdoors. In a society that is still learning to
accept and promote open-ended learning and move away from worksheet-lessons and
ever increasing screen time, nature play and simply being outdoors can be
forgotten.


Learning through open
ended play

Nature provides the ultimate
opportunity for open-ended play. Here, children are more likely to engage in
imaginative play and adopt an attitude of curiosity which naturally leads to
learning¹. Nature provides a tangible space where children can observe, engage
and receive feedback². There are no limitations or set ways of playing, allowing for freedom of exploration that promotes self-esteem growth. Our internal narrative develops very early, providing opportunity for this narrative to be one of encouragement, confidence and belief in our intrinsic ability is so empowering for children. 

Social/emotional
development

There are many studies that
evidence a relationship between nature play and increased ability for
self-control and conflict management³. These are key skills for not only forming social
relationships, but for maintaining them too. Richard Louv has documented the negative consequences that may arise from a childhood disconnected from nature. Children who regularly engage in
unstructured play outdoors, have been evidenced to have improved emotion
regulation, confidence and cognitive functioning¹.

When the outdoors is explored
with a parent or caregiver, important social bonds and connections are formed³. The impact of early attachment relationships is now well known as reducing the likelihood of emotion-regulation, behavioural and relationship difficulties in future².

Developing environmental
values

Children are capable of developing empathy for
non-human beings, such as wildlife and plants³This study shows that when children are able to recognise the intrinsic
value of non-human beings, they then also feel the need to protect and care for
them too. Even children as young as four have the developmental ability to take
into account the views of others¹. This study showed that nature play increased children’s affiliation with the
natural world. Exposure to nature and the environment strengthens not only an
interest towards other forms of life, but serves to raise a generation who will
take action in caring and protecting for our world. 

I hope this blog post serves
as encouragement to bring you and your children back to nature. Nature play
doesn’t always require planning and preparation. Reduce your mental load and
trust in the research that simply being outdoors, with an attitude of presence
and openness to possibilities, is enough to see your children thrive and your
family connect.