Let’s play a game.
Imagine for a moment that we are living a few thousand years ago. You & I are girlfriends, both Mothers from the same tribe and our children are of similar age. We live in basic man-made huts and rely completely on the land for all nourishment. Lucky for us our partners are excellent hunters and fishermen. Our days are simple and apart from the occasional threat of wild animals, we are happy. A typical day would see one of us minding the other’s kids while she went off to forage for berries and fruits and then afternoons spent cooking or swimming with the other women & children in our clan while we waited for the men to return home with dinner. And our kids? They spent happy days engaged in nature play, just as they were made to do.
Biologically, it feels good to be outside, amongst greenery, wide-open spaces and fresh air.
Fast-forward to today and our world is drastically different. 24-hour news cycles, the advent of instant gratification for practically anything we desire and the launch of i-devices have changed the landscape and the world our kids now grow up in. But what hasn’t changed is the ‘stuff’ we humans are made up of and so the natural desire, the need,for kids to be outside in nature remains.
Nature play offers so many incredible benefits for children. It teaches them to test their limits, think creatively, explore, imagine, rely on their senses, assess risk, test boundaries, get messy, wonder why, improvise solutions, regulate stress, gain perspective and recognize beauty, just to name a few. Studies have shown that being in nature is therapeutic for adults and while research concerning children and natureplay is still emerging, several studies have showed that spending time in nature can lessen ADHD symptoms and also moderate the impact of stress on children’s wellbeing.
Introducing nature play to your family’s lifestyle doesn’t need to involve elaborate adventures or expeditions if you don’t want it to. A perfect place to start is to jump onto Growing Kind’s #natureplay hashtag (simply search Instagram by month e.g. #natureplaymarch) to discover a whole month of prompts that will help get your creativity flowing for wild play ideas.
Some simple ideas to kickstart your fun could include;
1. Visiting a new park/ beach/ national park to forage for wild flowers and treasures like rocks, shells or gumnuts. When you get home, they can be used in craft or sensory play activities. During the warmer months, place your selected ‘treasure’ all into a shallow dish, cover with water and freeze into a beautiful, transparent disk. It’s special to see and fun for little fingers to play with as it melts!
2. Create a garden at home. Depending on the space you have available, set up a little herb garden, a veggie patch or if space is tight, a strawberry pot which is also fast-growing and fun to harvest! Little hands will love digging in the dirt and watching their creations grow and thrive.
3. Nature play doesn’t demand perfect weather! If it’s sprinkling with rain, pop on your boots and raincoats for a splash in the muddy puddles, or collect seed pods and large leaves and have a ‘boat races’ down the creek. For kids, just being outside during rainy weather can be an adventure in and of itself! As the Scandi’s say; “There’s no bad weather, just bad clothes”.
These are just some simple suggestions to get you thinking about nature play & spark interest in some new ideas. Just like those Mamas did thousands of years ago, today is a perfect day to head outside and climb trees, marvel at bugs and watch the clouds go by, just as nature intended.