Explore the Outdoors with Nature Play

By Jamie Le Sesne Spears, M.Ed., Family Engagement Specialist 

Summer is filled with opportunities for children and adults to play outdoors. When children begin to explore and interact with nature, these outdoor opportunities begin to transform into learning experiences.   

Benefits of nature play   

Natural learning happens when young children play in and with nature. In fact, nature play is beneficial not only for physical growth but also intellectual and emotional growth.  

For example, a toddler or preschooler may collect rocks, leaves, and sticks on a walk. As they are collecting, they notice shapes and colors, learn new vocabulary, begin to communicate differences and engage their five senses. With a simple nature collection, young children are tapping into their developmental skills. Furthermore, you can enhance this learning through simple questions (i.e. “What do you see?” or “What do you feel?”) and wonder statements (i.e. “I wonder if all the rocks are the same size.” or “I wonder if you have more sticks or leaves.”) 

Planning your nature activities

Nature play can be easy to plan.  For a start, ask your child what they want to do. It could be as simple as running, building, climbing, or exploring – the options are endless! However, sometimes children need a little guidance from adults. But, as an adult, where do you get your guidance? Here’s where we come in!

Ideas for nature play activities

To help you guide your child’s nature play at home, we created the Exploring the Outdoors: Nature Play Birth – 5 Tip Sheet. In this tip sheet, you will learn about the intellectual, emotional, and physical benefits of nature play. We also outline specific ways to support your infant, toddler, and/or preschooler in nature-based activities. 

Additional nature play activities

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