what is nature play?

what is nature play?

Nature play is simply providing the time and space for children to be in nature. It is child-focused and child-led with no adult-directed outcome.

Why? Because free time playing in nature supports optimal child wellbeing!

For growing bodies: nature play encourages physical activity so strengthens bones, muscles and heart health. Playing on uneven natural surfaces improves balance and co-ordination. Looking up into tree canopies or out to the horizon helps eye health reducing rates of visual problems like short sightedness.

For growing minds: encounters with animals and natural phenomena like puddles, rain, sunrises and rainbows foster awe and wonder. These states of fascination stimulate curiosity and a love of learning. Problem-solving, creativity and resilience are all nurtured by nature play experiences.

For growing nature lovers: children who grow up with nature in their lives are more likely to care about the natural world as adults- becoming the nature stewards and environmentalists of the future.

How- create time and space for all children to play in nature!

Make time: nature play can start as soon as children can play on their own outside, around the age of three. Cancel an organised, adult-driven activity in your child’s current schedule and replace it with a time for nature play. Try to fit in some time for this play every day.

Find green places: nature play can be in your own backyard, the nearby park or you could bring some natural objects home and have a nature play corner inside if it’s really difficult to get to a green space. Nature play uses ‘loose materials’ like sticks, leaves, flowers and stones that children can incorporate into their games as they wish.

Step back: this may be the tricky bit! Adults need to step back and simply allow children to play as they wish. It might be good to offer some ‘play invitations’ like a pile of sticks or leaves to help initiate play but remember not to set a goal or desired outcome!

To find out more check out the resources below or buy Nature, Our Medicine


The Last Child in the Woods and other books by Richard Louv

The Sense Of Wonder by Rachel Carson

How to Raise A Wild Child by Scott D. Sampson 


Schools Out: Lessons from a Forest Kindergarten film directed by Lisa Molomot

Project Wildthing film by David Bond- access on thewildnetwork

Kids In Nature Network 

Photo credits:
Child with leaves Photo by Janko Ferlič on Unsplash
Children with tree branches Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
Children leaning against tree Photo by by Marcus Wallis on Unsplash