Kids these days are always glued to some sort of electronic device. They don’t go outside and explore like we did when we were young. Instead, they would rather stay inside where it is comfortable and they don’t have to exert themselves.
Children need time to play. It’s how they explore the world around them, learn about cause and effect, and develop vital physical and social skills. But with the growing pressures on academic achievement, many schools are reducing or eliminating recess and free playtime.
This is a mistake. Studies have shown that natural play – that is, play that is unstructured and child-led – has numerous benefits for children’s physical, mental, and social health. It helps them to develop coordination and motor skills, supports creativity and problem-solving, and allows them to practice social skills such as cooperation and communication.
Moreover, the natural play gives children a chance to relax and recharge, which can help them focus when they return to academics. In an increasingly fast-paced world, it’s more important than ever to give children the time and space to explore, imagine, and simply play.
The term “natural play” refers to the idea of using natural elements like trees, rocks, and water to create playgrounds and other outdoor spaces that are inviting and stimulating for children.
This approach contrasts with the more traditional model of playground design, which often relies on manufactured equipment and materials. Proponents of natural play argue that it offers a number of benefits for children, including improved physical health, cognitive development, and social skills.
In addition, natural play spaces are typically more cost-effective to build and maintain than their artificial counterparts. As awareness of these benefits continues to grow, it is likely that natural play will become increasingly prevalent in the years to come.
What Is Natural Play?
One of the key benefits of natural play is that it helps to develop physical strength and coordination. Activities such as climbing and balancing help to build muscle strength, while moving in different ways helps to promote coordination. In addition, natural play can also encourage children to take risks and explore their limits. This can help to build confidence and self-esteem, as well as promote problem-solving skills.
The natural play opens up a whole world of opportunities for imaginative play. With no rules or boundaries, children can let their imaginations run wild, encouraging creativity and expression. Ultimately, natural play provides numerous benefits for children’s physical, mental, and emotional development.
Natural Play Benefits
According to some experts, children who are encouraged to play in natural environments are more likely to develop important cognitive skills. These skills include problem-solving, creativity, and abstract thinking.
Proponents of natural play argue that children who are allowed to explore the world around them are more likely to come up with new and innovative ideas. In contrast, children who are restricted to playing on manufactured playground equipment often have a more limited view of the world and may be less likely to think outside the box. Natural play also encourages physical activity, which is an important part of healthy child development.
Children who run, jump, and climb in natural settings are more likely to get the exercise they need to stay healthy and fit. Finally, natural play can promote social interaction and bonding. When children play together in parks and open spaces, they have an opportunity to develop interpersonal skills such as communication and teamwork. In today’s technology-driven world, some believe that natural play is more important than ever before.
By providing opportunities for children to explore and experiment in the real world, we can help them develop the skills they need to succeed in a rapidly changing world.
When it comes to children and play, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Some kids prefer organized activities with clear rules and boundaries, while others thrive in more open-ended situations. Natural play provides an opportunity for the latter group to shine. With no prescribed minimum or maximum dimensions for elements, natural play encourages kids to use their imaginations and stretch their bodies in new ways.
This type of play has been shown to increase self-esteem, creativity, motor skills, fitness, and even academic performance. It also seems to relieve symptoms of ADHD. In other words, natural play is good for both the mind and the body. And best of all, it’s free! So next time your child is feeling antsy, consider taking them for a walk in the park instead of reaching for the wallet.
In his groundbreaking work Last Child in the Woods, journalist and child advocate Richard Louv links the absence of nature in the lives of today's wired generation to some of the most disturbing childhood trends: the rise in obesity, attention disorders, and depression. This is the first book to bring together a body of research indicating that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of children and adults. More than just raising an alarm, Louv offers practical solutions to heal the broken bond between children and nature.
What is a Nature Play Space?
The concept of a nature play space is based on the idea that children should have opportunities to play and interact with natural elements on a daily basis.
Although today’s playgrounds often feature metal and plastic structures, research has shown that contact with nature is essential for children’s physical, cognitive, and emotional development. Incorporating elements of the surrounding landscape into a playground can help to create an environment that is both stimulating and educational.
Furthermore, nature play spaces have been shown to promote creativity and imagination, as well as encourage risk-taking and problem-solving skills. With so many benefits, it is clear that nature play spaces offer a unique and valuable opportunity for children to learn and grow.
Nature Play at Home
Wild places provide opportunities for children to encounter new things and explore on their own. Even in small spaces, such as a backyard, patio, or balcony, there are ways to create an enticing outdoor play space for children.
Go Outside and Play
According to the National Wildlife Federation, “Children love to play outside, but too often they find themselves bereft of interesting places to explore. More and more, their freedom to roam is being restricted by busy streets, overprotective adults, and a general lack of knowledge about the great outdoors. As a result, children are becoming increasingly disconnected from nature.”
Nature Play at Home: A Guide for Boosting Children’s Healthy Development and Creativity helps parents and caregivers change this trend by providing them with the tools they need to turn an uninspired outdoor environment into an entertaining and exciting play area that will have kids racing too, “Go outside and play!”
The book offers tips on everything from designing a nature-themed play space to choosing age-appropriate activities that will boost children’s physical, cognitive, and social-emotional development. In addition, readers will find inspiring photos and casestudies throughout, showing how other families have created thriving nature play areas in their own yards and neighborhoods. With Nature Play at Home as their guide, parents and caregivers can give their children the gift of a lifelong love of nature.
The National Wildlife Federation and the Natural Learning Initiative at North Carolina State University have created a guide for doing just that. By incorporating elements such as water, sand, rocks, and plants, it is possible to create a miniature version of a natural landscape that will spark children’s imaginations and encourage them to spend time outdoors. You can download Nature Play at Home for free.
In addition to being enjoyable, time spent in nature has been shown to have numerous benefits for children’s physical and mental health. So why not give your child the gift of a backyard adventure?
Where Do Kids Naturally Play?
Natural play can take place anywhere where children have access to natural elements. Sadly, in many towns and cities, access to the natural environment is either limited or absent. Therefore, landscape architects are increasingly asked to develop local play areas with natural play elements.
These natural playgrounds mimic the natural environment, offering a non-prescriptive and imaginative play resource. Natural playgrounds might include features such as sand pits, water play areas, trees and logs for climbing, and open grassy areas. They provide an opportunity for children to explore, take risks, and use their imaginations.
In a natural playground, there are no set rules or boundaries – children are free to play however they choose. This type of environment has been shown to promote physical, social, and emotional development in children. It can also help them to connect with nature and learn about the importance of taking care of the natural world.
Designed Natural Play Spaces
When it comes to play spaces for children, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, there are some basic principles that can help to create an enjoyable and stimulating environment for kids.
- First, it is important to consider the age and abilities of the children who will be using the space.
- Second, the play space should be designed to encourage exploration and discovery.
- Finally, the play space should be safe and well-maintained. By following these guidelines, it is possible to create a natural play space that is both fun and functional.
One way to achieve this is by incorporating elements of nature into the design of the play space. This could include using native plants for landscaping, providing opportunities for kids to get dirty, and incorporating water features such as streams or ponds.
Natural elements can help to create a sense of wonder and excitement for children, while also providing a backdrop for active play. Another important consideration is the provision of opportunities for physical activity. This could involve installing climbing structures, swings, or other playground equipment. Active play is essential for promoting physical health and well-being in children. Finally, it is important to ensure that the play space is well-maintained. This means keeping the area clean and free of hazards.
By following these guidelines, it is possible to create a natural play space that is both safe and enjoyable for children. With a little imagination, the possibilities are endless!
What Are The Benefits Of Natural Play?
As well as being great fun, natural play has many benefits for children. It can help to promote physical, social, and emotional development. Natural play can also help children to connect with nature and learn about the importance of taking care of the environment.
Some of the benefits of natural play include:
- Physical health and fitness
- Improved motor skills
- Increased creativity
- Enhanced self-esteem
- Greater academic performance
- Reduced stress levels
- A deeper connection with nature
Natural play is a great way for kids to explore their surroundings and get exercise. It can also help them to develop important life skills such as creativity, problem-solving, and teamwork.
How to Get the Finest from Natural Play
Research indicates that children benefit both physically and mentally from playing in the natural environment. Probably the best way to take advantage of these benefits is to allow children free access to the natural environment.
This could mean living near a park or nature reserve, or simply having a garden that is safe for them to explore. Where free access to the natural environment is not available, there are many designed natural playgrounds, which incorporate elements such as sculpted earthworks, grass, bark chippings, logs, fallen trees, large live trees, boulders, and stones, sand, and planting. These playgrounds provide an opportunity for children to experience the joys of playing in nature, even if they don’t have access to it at home.
We’re creating guidelines and working to develop sample “nature play spaces” to help transform playgrounds, schoolyards, childcare centers, museums, and zoos into spaces where kids can connect, play, and learn in nature. Natural Play will help restore children’s relationship with nature by bringing it back to the play and learning places of everyday life.
According to a report from the Nature Conservancy, the average American child spends less than 30 minutes a day in unstructured outdoor play. This is concerning because time spent in nature has been shown to have a number of benefits for children. For example, outdoor play can help to improve cognitive function, increase creativity, and reduce stress levels.
Additionally, time spent in nature has been linked with lower rates of obesity and mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. Furthermore, exposure to nature can help to foster a sense of wonder and appreciation for the natural world. Given the many benefits of outdoor play, it is important to find ways to encourage kids to spend more time in nature.
One way to do this is to create natural play opportunities in your own backyard or nearby park. This can be as simple as setting up a small sandbox or adding some colorful flowers to your garden. By making the outdoors more inviting and fun, you can help your kids develop a lifelong love of nature.