There is a strong evidence base for the many beneficial aspects of nature play for a child’s wellbeing and development. I am a huge advocate for unstructured play outside, where children have free access to a range of naturally existing sensory-rich experiences and the ability to nourish their intrinsic curiosities.
Simply being outside without any plan or intention provides children with a nurturing space that allows all aspects of their development to flourish. Setting up invitations to play where children have opportunity to engage in something new can be a way to target interests and learning. Here are some of our favourite outdoor play ideas;
Set up bowls or pots, utensils such as spoons or mortar and pestle sets alongside some captivating natural sensory materials. This could include dried flowers, herbs, spices, mud and of course, water. Including materials such as baking soda and vinegar add an additional layer that provides opportunity to explore cause and effect. Magic potions provide a foundation to explore wishes and ignite imaginations. We especially love these meaningful potion kids curated by The Little Potion Co.
This is a simple way to get outside. We have a free nature scavenger hunt printable that can be used as a prompt, or simply take a basket and see what you find. The treasures found in nature could be used in arts and crafts, for display on a nature table or you could participate in a nature exchange with friends, family or within our free nature exchange program.
An adaptation of the classical mud kitchen. Olfactory sensory materials make a beautiful addition, such as dried flowers, herbs and spices. ‘Tea’ can be strained using some repurposed muslin cloth or a bamboo strainer.
This is especially wonderful for summertime play for babies and older children alike. Freezer trays made for baby food are great for this as they have larger compartments, but standard ice cube trays work too. Simply add flowers, foliage or whatever you desire to the tray, fill with water and freeze. We like to place our on our tuff tray for sensory play, but the frozen cubes also make a unique addition to mud kitchen or potion making play.
Based on the practice of sandplay therapy, invite your child to bring figurines, animals and props such as trees, bridges and fences into your sandpit. You could set up a smaller, designated sand tray, but this isn’t essential. Invite your child to set up a world or tell a story. Be guided by them and participate in the story or play when you are invited or instructed to do so.
Use tape to wrap around the circumference on your childs’ head, sticky side facing outwards. You can then stick treasures found in nature to it. We also used crystal confetti – we think this made it especially royal. A crown often dignifies importance and power reversal is empowering for children. This activity could be used as a space to explore what they would do if they were the “boss”.
Enjoy your moments of mindful play outside. If you do any of these activities, be sure to share and tag us on Instagram so we can share it and continue to inspire others.