Three Tips to Help Foster Nature Play
1. Give your Child “Rough Ground”
Good nature play requires land that is not too protected and is wild – at least in children’s eyes. This might be his or her own backyard, a neighborhood pond, a quite corner in a community park, a vacant city lot, or a local beach.
The size of the site doesn’t matter; it’s the freedom it gives!
The site must have elemental nature to play with and discover: things like rocks, dirt, trees, bugs, flowers, sand, mud, shells, and water. Equally important, your child must be free to dig, collect, sort, climb, build, and hide there. This site is better known as “rough ground” – patches of land the child can love and adopt as their own.
2. Let the Child Play With Nature
The very best play comes from the child, not from the adult. We call this outdoor play at school “child-centered” and should always be the goal!
Typically, there are very few rules for nature play. The idea is the play actively engage children with nature and its elements. Putting a ping-pong table in the backyard is not the nature play we’re discussing.
Real nature play is about playing with nature, not just in nature!
Nature play is collecting leaves and rocks, hiding in tall grass, rolling down hills, catching tiny creatures and building a natural habitat, digging for buried treasure, splashing in the creek or rain puddle, hiding amidst the shrubs, and climbing a tree as high as you can.
3. Bring Nature Play Back Into the Families Daily Life
Outdoor play should always be part of the regular rhythm, of daily life for the child. Let’s explain this thought better! If you have to drive all over town to enjoy nature play, then it’s not likely to happen often enough to impact their growth, development, and love for nature. Instead, you can help a child best by bringing nature play back into the families daily rhythm of life – places a child can reach on foot, or bicycle, day after day, to play and re-play by simply opening the door.