We all know that getting outside in the fresh air and enjoying physical activity is good for our children. But did you know that nature is an integral part of this experience.
Not all play spaces are created equal. Those that can incorporate natural elements provide the perfect environment for a play experience offering greater impact on physical development and emotional well-being.
In this post we take a look at how playscapes that include nature are beneficial to our children, and how you might recreate these environments at home.
Curiosity is the foundation of learning. A curious mind, hungry for information will seek answers. In this way children pull information from their care-givers rather than absorb what is spoon fed to them. This method of learning is not only more enjoyable, it is also more effective as the question and answer format helps new knowledge stick.
Nature prompts endless questions in children.
Unlike man-made materials and uniform play areas, nature is varied and unpredictable. It is these variations, like knots in the wood, or insects enjoying the climbing frame and evoke curiosity. Being surrounded by nature prompts children to notice things they don't understand or sights they find unusual, and they will then ask questions that the adults in their lives had never even thought of.
When faced with an unanswerable question, adults can support the child to look for the answer themselves, either in a book, or online. In this way, children learn not only the answer to their question, but how to satisfy their curiosity in future.
Playing in an environment enriched by nature provides a multi-sensory experience for children. The texture of wood, combined with the sound of leaves rustling or water running, and the smell of the flowers, all activate various centres within the brain. Being able to process multiple sensory experiences at the same time and make sense of them is a vital skill for young children. In school they will need to cope with the background noise of other children, will reading from the board, and suing their sense of touch to manipulate a pencil, for example. The more opportunities a child has to enjoy multi-sensory experiences, the more easily they will cope with these circumstances later.
Incorporating Nature Into Your Play Area
You probably already have some plants, flowers and grass in your back garden, which provides a great foundation for your play space. In addition to these, choose play equipment made of natural materials (wood) and add accessories such as a climbing rope or rope ladder. Consider feeding the birds to encourage them to play their background music of birdsong while your children play. You could also add a water play feature or a fountain, ensuring young children are supervised at all times. Old tree stumps make a great (natural) place to sit and rest, and bark chippings are a wonderful addition for making mud pies.
Embrace the haphazard form of nature and shun the uniformity of the manufactured to create an interesting, nurturing play environment in your own back garden.