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 feedback. 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 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 behavioural and relationship difficulties in future.

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.