Psychology and Allied Health Services

Nature Play

Let’s look at the benefits of getting back to nature….. 

Nature play is a term used to describe the creation of simple play opportunities in the natural environment. Since play is a primary occupation for children it is useful to consider themes of play in nature. Getting your children involved in Nature Play doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming, it can be as simple as a visit to the local park or the beach where the children can roam free. Engagement with nature is inexpensive and benefits people regardless of age, gender or difficulties.  

Children who have sensory anomalies may find the experience of nature overwhelming – work closely with your Occupational Therapist to work on strategies to support the gradual introduction of nature play within your family time. It is truly rewarding….. 

Do you remember your favourite childhood place in nature? Where was it? How did you feel when you were there? What is your child’s favourite place in nature?  

In recent times we have moved a lot more indoors and screen spaces have replaced green places. Our use of television, computers, the internet and smartphones has increased. This change in the experience of and exposure to nature has led to a gradual distancing between our children and the natural world and has profound implications for the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health of future generationsA growing body of evidence suggests that, from backyards to streets, parks and gardens, from the beach to the bush, children do better outside!  

Benefits of Nature Play 

They use their whole bodies….a combination of gross and fine motor skills are required to interact with the outdoor environment and provides a more dynamic challenge to the body.  

They play more creatively….natural playscapes, live plants, views of nature and various colours in nature. Consider a stick – could it be used as a bridge in the fairy house, a clothesline for the mini backyard, a wand, a sword or a horse to ride on? We can support and inspire our children to use their imaginations and challenge their thinking.  

They enjoy a more balanced sensory experience….we can hear the birds chirping, touch the grass on our bare feet and feel the warmth of the sunlight whilst maintaining a calm and relaxed state. Although nature can be overpowering to the senses in some cases (gradual exposure may be required) natural stimuli tends to be more gentle, preventative and in many cases, restorative.  

Executive functioning is enhanced….children are more likely to set goals, problem solve, focus attention and demonstrate cognitive flexibility when playing in natural outdoor environments.