Thursday, July 8, 2010

Nature Play

In the big scheme of things, living in houses, in cities and towns is a pretty recent development for humans, as are the mass-produced, brightly coloured plastic objects we've come to think of as toys. For thousands of years children played with whatever was on hand - sticks, water, rocks, leaves, feathers, mud and shells - nature's toys. These natural materials are some of the best play things as they require imagination and encourage creativity, thinking outside-the-square and problem solving skills (and they're free!) Playing with natural objects helps children make sense of their world and fosters a respect for nature and ultimately (hopefully) an environmental conscience.

Ideas for Nature Play

  • Put together a basket full of natural playthings toddlers will enjoy exploring with their senses - pine cone, shells, flax rope, lemon, lavender flowers tied in a cloth bag, some sheep skin, a leaf, small rock, dry sea pod. (Be sure to supervise activity)

  • Children love magic potions so provide them with an old pot, a stirring stick and water and see what they concoct!

  • Nowhere in Australia is far from a beach - an absolute wonderland for children. Leave the bucket and spade at home and let children play with whatever is on hand. See what they can create from seaweed, driftwood, shells, mangrove seeds or feathers.

  • Clay is readily available and is a great material to have on hand. Set your child outside somewhere warm with some clay and a small container of water and a selection of natural materials to stick into the clay or make shapes with - leaves, twigs, shells and feathers for example.

  • Make a volcano in the sandpit. Place a small container of baking soda and food colouring in the crater, and white vinegar and watch the lava flow.

  • Let your child fill an ice-cream container with water plus anything that captures their imagination - flowers, shells, blades of grass, pebbles. Then freeze it and the kids can see their natural treasures suspended in the ice.

  • Have a messy place in the garden, somewhere children can make mud pies and mud balls or build dams and construct highways to their hearts' content.

  • If your child is interested in something - shells, feathers, horsehair, round pebbles, leaves, insects - let him arrange his collections indoors. This is the beginning of observation and classification skills that help children order and make sense of their world.

For 25 more Easy Nature Play Ideas be sure to check out

Nature Rocks is a national program to inspire and empower families to play and explore in nature. This wonderful site allows you to put in the ages of your children, time you are allocating to an activity and where you would like to do the activity... and then presents you with a range of choices!

Children benefit from appropriate risk-taking during outdoor play, by helping them refine their motor skills and gain confidence in being physically active.

1 comment:

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