Rocks, gum nuts, feathers, sticks, sea shells….these are the toys my one-year-old cherishes most and there’s no doubt, I can literally see her ears perk up whenever she hears the word, “outside.”
The funny thing is, although most households, day care centres and toy libraries are bursting with plastic toys, in my experience kids really gravitate towards natural objects when given the opportunity. And studies do show that unstructured outdoor play is one of the best things for children’s development.
To name just a few of these benefits (thanks to the Nature Play WA):
- Builds resilience – to fall down and get back up again, to experiment and learn from mistakes develops problem solving and creativity by being persistent to try things a different way.
- Risk taking and reasonable risk assessment – children can reflect on their actions and feelings related to nature experiences and gain confidence to make their own decisions from self-directed and self-controlled play.
- Calming – our natural attraction and trust of nature can calm behaviours, focus attention and increase ability to concentrate and learn.
- Develops the use of senses – exploring the textures, sounds, tastes, colours and smells in any weather develops learning skills, expands sensory use and strengthens muscles for gross and fine motor skills.
- Develops respect and care of other living things – good adult role models show appropriate ways to care for the natural environment.
- To be observant and focus their attention – how to observe, investigate, imagine and question develops critical thinking.
- Develops language and communication skills – to participate in conversations and observations about ideas or experiences develops speaking, listening and social communication skills.
It was just a way of life back in the late 70s when I was growing up, but my sister and I spent countless hours playing outdoors, climbing trees and making up imaginary stories and the like, and it’s my heart’s desire to give my own daughter the same experiences.
In our household we’ve made the conscious decision to reduce plastic, which includes toys, of course. It really does take some concerted effort but the results are amazing. A few baskets, gum nuts, wooden toys and an avid collector (aka my daughter) and you’ve got a plastic-free toy collection to entertain and educate children for hours.
For more inspiration check out this blog I discovered today, which led to this post:
It’s bursting with great info and photos on how to make play spaces more green.
Well, I’d better get back to some more nature time with my daughter….nothing beats exploring the natural world through the eyes of a youngster.