After stocking up on puzzles, playdoh, and games to survive the last few months, I’m excited to embrace the outdoors and look to nature for inspiration when it comes to play. I love all that the outdoors brings to my kids: the fact that we can have a blast with things we’ve found in the backyard or on a walk, that my little ones can learn about nature, and that the mess all stays outside!
An easy way to get started with nature-based play is by collecting different natural materials in the backyard and on walks — pinecones, flowers, leaves, sticks, and rocks are all good to have on hand for getting creative. Incorporate some chalk, yarn, or paints into your newly found natural materials and watch imaginations run wild.
Including nature in your child’s play doesn’t have to be extra difficult. Young children find joy in the smallest and simplest things, all we have to do is let them. If you’re stuck on ways to start, here are some of our favorite ideas for incorporating nature in your child’s play.
Use Natural Materials to Make Art
If your kids are already coming home with pockets full of their collectibles — like, leaves, rocks, sticks, pinecones, tree bark, and flowers — you might as well put them to good use. Using natural items to create art encourages your children’s budding interest in the outside world, promotes creative thinking, and enlightens them to one of the universal truths of our world: that every single thing can be used in multiple ways.
Infuse Some Easy DIY Into Your Play Areas
A little bit of DIY can go a long way. Kids are naturally inclined to play with the materials around them, but as adults, we sometimes unintentionally push commercial products on them as “what they’re supposed to play with.” Using some of the natural materials found in your yard or neighborhood can be a great way for everyone to begin thinking outside of the box. Scavenging for and building these items together will probably be an incredible family memory. If you’re not the most DIY-inclined, ask for a neighbor’s help and make a few play areas for all of your kids together.
If You Have the Room and Time, Go Big
The options for DIY when thinking about a nature-based playscape are endless. Of course, all of us don’t have the same access to time, resources, and space to make these a reality. But if you do, considering how to use natural materials to make more opportunity for creative play is certainly something to think about — using the things around us instead of buying more, though not always plausible, is always a worthy effort.