The Benefits of Nature Play
The Benefits of Nature Play
So what is the big deal with Nature Play? I mean… our kids don't really need to spend all that time outside! Right?? Wrong!
According to recent studies, even looking at green space gives the brain a chance to restore attention and reduce fatigue. But we really do need to get in and amongst it to reap the most benefits.
Spending time in nature is essential for your little one's cognitive and physical development. It teaches them to classify, observe, explore, and interpret the phenomena around them. Nature play also stimulates creativity and problem solving skills.
But what is nature play? Nature Play Queensland describes it as “outdoor activity that gets children active or thinking actively outdoors, with the end goal of building skills and ability to play without the need for parental or adult control.”
But we hear you asking, how does it actually help my baby?
Research shows that outdoor, play-based learning and active free-play can help improve creativity, emotional stability and educational outcomes.
Children who play and spend time in nature have increased focus, concentration and cognitive skills. The average Australian child spends about half as much time playing outside as their parents did, with an average of only 1.2 hours a day outside compared to 2.3 hours a day in front of a screen! According to Angela Hanscom, paediatric occupational therapist and author of the bestselling book 'Balanced and Barefoot', ideally kids should be playing outside for three hours each day, not including organised activities.
Spending time in nature supports gross and fine motor skills as it exposes your little one to varying situations where they are forced to learn and adapt to best fit themselves into the prevailing conditions. For instance, playing on uneven heights and surfaces helps them to hone their coordination and balancing skills.
It also promotes an inquisitive mind. The natural world is a giant, open-ended learning laboratory. Your little one is an innate scientist and naturalist, and loves to experience the sights, scents, sounds, and textures of the outdoors. Nature provides endless opportunities for discovery and creativity. It allows your little one to think, question and make hypotheses—thereby developing an inquisitive mind.
You will never regret spending a whole morning or afternoon outside with your little one, giving them the freedom to just BE in nature. Grab a blanket, lay it out for yourself and just let them explore/
For a newborn, nature "play" could be as simple as putting them in a carrier and going for a nature walk. All of their senses will be awakened.
Older babies will happily take the lead in their own play and exploration.
You might like to also introduce them to some new nature-based experiences: such as
- Digging in dirt and building with it
- Watching worms wriggle through the soil
- Gazing at clouds, jumping in puddles
- Listening to birds sing
- Smelling fresh-cut grass
- Touching a tree trunk.
- Balancing along a path
- Collecting leaves, twigs and flowers for a nature collage
- Making a “campfire” with sticks
- Creating a fairy garden
- Or simply letting them just explore.