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. As a former preschool teacher, I loved giving the kids a chance to get outdoors to play and learn at the same time!
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. With my preschoolers, I would 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.