What is Nature Play and why is it super important for our children?

What is Nature Play and why is it super important for our children?

24 JAN 2019

Most of us instinctively know there is an issue with our kids becoming more and more attached to screens and choosing indoor over outdoor recreation activities.

Which is why you’ve probably heard children’s health experts talking about the importance of “Nature Play”

Unstructured play outside in nature - or “Nature Play” as it’s come to be known; is a type of play that delivers enormous benefits to our children’s physical and mental health.

Nature play is any activity that gets children active outdoors where they are in control of the way they play. That could be building a cubby, figuring out how to climb a tree, digging a hole in the garden or designing a dam. This type of play - Nature Play - is how kids test and trial many of the skills they will need as adults.

You may have heard the statement “Play is the work of childhood”. What that means is as children play, they also learn, for it is the processes built into play that develops the neural pathways in our children’s brains.

Recent neural research exploring brain activity during the early years showed children are constantly learning when they are playing, but it almost stops when they are on screens.

Conversely, when children play outdoors on the grass, or play with leaves, rocks, dirt, sticks, sand; their brain activity is extremely high. Playing outdoors, either with other kids or alone, gives children the opportunity to not only hone their skills, but practice risk management while developing their curiosity, imagination, and self-esteem.

The Nature Play QLD organization was created to develop programs to help kids return to this sort of play. We also partner with like minded organisations to find ways to make nature play happen in our neighbourhoods.

Our fundamental belief is that outside play is essential and it should be a regular aspect of every child’s daily life.

There is no doubt that modern childhood has changed.

Childhood has gone from being largely outdoors, highly active, highly social, independent, self-directed, adventurous and explorative in nature; to one now largely indoors, sedentary, technologically immersed, highly organized, high parental involvement, education driven, fearful, and risk averse.

These changes in the way kids play are having an enormous impact on their overall health and wellbeing, especially on their physical and brain development and mental health.

It may be hard as a parent to let our kids go, but creating opportunities for unstructured play, allowing our children to discover who they are and what they are capable of, is the greatest gift for their future.

My childhood involved exploring the wider spaces of my neighbourhood, playing in local streets, parks and finding other kids to roam the neighbourhood with.

Now as a father-of-four, I want to give my children the same play experiences I had.

Nature Play is a sensory explosion delivering a high degree of brain activity which is hugely beneficial to our children and their development.

Playing in nature is a rich source of touching, movement, hearing, depths of seeing and vision, tasting and smelling, which develops the neural pathways in our children’s brains.

Nature Play QLD helps parents and communities create opportunities for our children to have the type of play experiences where they will discover, learn and gain a clear understanding of what they can and can't safely achieve.

We are encouraging every Queensland kid to find ways to swap “screen time” for “green time”.

Come join us! Visit www.natureplayqld.org.au for more information.

By Hyahno Moser, Program Manager, Nature Play QLD

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