Nature Play has many benefits for your child including helping your child's cognitive development while promoting resilience and creativity.
It allows them to satisfy their curiosity, explore nature and can also calm your child and stimulate their creativity. The simple act of being in nature is an amazing sensory stimulation in itself. No matter the season, you can encourage your child to play outside and have fun!
In celebration of Nature Play Week, here are some great Nature Play ideas you can try today with your child.
1. Cloud Watching
Pick a cloudy day in the week and a nice patch of grass in a park or your backyard with a good view of the sky. Encourage your child to look up at the sky while sitting or laying down. Share what you see with your child and ask your child what they see. Are there animals? A house?
This is a great child-led unstructured play activity that allows your child or children to use their imagination while allowing your child to connect with the natural world.
2. Make an Autumn Sensory Bin
With the seasons now changing, take your child on walk to explore the signs of Autumn, collecting leaves, bark, seed pods and other natural elements to make a sensory bin. This is a good opportunity to help your child develop an understanding of size and textures of objects in nature, using words like "big" or "small" to communicate with your child. Once all the nature items are in the sensory bin engage with your child by asking questions like:
- Why is that the colour?
- Why is it that shape?
- How does this feel? Is it crunchy? Is it smooth?
This activity is great for sensory development, having them touch and explore each piece, but it's also a great way to get your child or children to want to know more about nature and the environment.
3. Archaeologist for a Day
If you have a sandpit or a clear section in your backyard, bury a range of items such as plastic dinosaurs, toys, lego or anything that can’t easily be broken. Explain to your child what an archaeologist is: a scientist who studies history by digging up old artefacts and physical remains. Ask your child if today they would like to try to be an archeologist?
Give your child a collection of "archaeologist tools" such as a small trowel, spoons and old paintbrushes and with your child to dig and discuss what you find. This activity is a great sensory exploration that helps with problem solving skills.
4. Alphabet Bushwalk
Next time you’re going for a nature walk with the family, take an alphabet walk. As you walk along in the great outdoors, challenge your child to keep their eyes peeled to find letters that have been unintentionally formed in the outdoors. For example crossing tree branches form an X against the blue sky or an O for the shape of a rock. With your child, sound out the letter that the item resembles. This activity is great to develop pre-reading skills for those learning ABC's.
5. Nest Building
Want to build a birds nest? Hunt around your backyard and start to collect twigs, grass, leaves and bark with your child. Try to put these all together in a nest shape with your child and try to make some eggs by rolling mud into ball shapes, to put inside. This activity is great for creative thinking and teamwork skills.