Articles Tagged with: natureplay

Plan, Create and Build an Outside Play Kitchen

Stuck for something to do while in isolation?

Do you want to promote engrossed play? 

Do you want to foster learning? 

Do you want your children to connect with nature instead of the internet? 

Or are you a teacher wanting to get your teeth stuck in to something when you return to your learning setting?

I challenge you to work together with your child/ren to plan, create and build a mud kitchen/outside play kitchen in your back yard.

First up, you need to plan where. Talk about this together.  Work through reasonings.  This needs to be in a space where the ground can get stood on and potential turn to dirt/mud, preferably where near forage and in reach of a hose to maintain tidiness of the space.

Next, the plan.  Take a walk around the house together. What have you got at home? Can you reuse and recycle some junk?  Perhaps a pallet or 2, some old wood, an old table, some wood crates, buckets, baskets and bowls?
Keep it simple and use what you’ve got!
What resources have you got around the house? Sticks, shells, bark, stones.  Chuck in an old pot, pan, bowl, plastics, muffin trays, jugs and kitchen utensils. 

Do some gardening to add to the space.  Plant some herbs, grass and pansies in small pots or old crockery.
Have you got some large rocks or log stumps/rounds? These make good seats. 
Cable reels make great tables, tyres, planks of wood or recycle an old table. 

There doesn’t need to be water running to it, but if there is a nearby outside tap you could establish expectations early – fill only as needed and turn tap off or tap stays at drippings with bowl underneath. Discuss where you want children to ‘clean’ selves when play is finished.

Creating a play space outside where children can play freely and use their imagination holds great learning benefits. 
In this space, children can create, explore, imagine and discover.  Children with explore language as they role play.  They will invite you in to their play, offering tasty treats and you can gratefully accept, joining their play.

Preparing the play space in the kitchen, cleaning up during or after the play all teaches aspects of managing self. 
There are also great sensory benefits when working with and playing in nature.  All senses are fuelled within this space – touch, sound, sight, taste and smell.  The children will also be soaking up the healing properties in nature.
As the child/ren mix dirt with water, watch a worm dig or plant herbs and nurture them to grow, they explore science and nature concepts.
As they work creating tasty morsels, filling containers, counting how many treats needed, sorting and working with order, children explore early mathematical learning. 
Place a clipboard and pencil nearby and I’m sure they will make use of this somehow too. A great extension for early literacy – they might write recipes menus or orders.If you have concrete nearby, chalk is a great resource. 
This space will allow the child/ren to become deeply engrossed in their play, thus making the learning more meaningful. 

This space is a working space and can be continuously added to and beautified.  Allow the child/ren to take ownership of this space.  Allow them to imagine, create and play out their ideas. Let them take the lead in their learning. Let them own this space. Children will play in such a space for years to come.

Kia ora and hello, 

My name is Nickie and I am a passionate, heart centered and intentional early years teacher, leader and mentor.  Dedicated to personal and professional growth, it is empowerment, kindness and connection which guide my practice.
With 18+ years experience, working in Early Childhood Education centres in New Zealand and Australia, I have a passion to share, motivate and inspire teachers and parents, with my practical knowledge and experience in teaching, leading and mentoring.
I invite you to open your mind and heart to new ideas and ways of teaching and leading to empower. I hope you find something in my blog that inspires and motivates you to be the best person, teacher and/or parent you can be.

Nga mihi nui,



The Many Benefits of Nature Play

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

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.


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