How to incorporate nature into play
When you think back to being a child, you probably remember playing outside. Games of make believe, kicking a football about, always having scraped and muddy knees.
But these days many children prefer to play on technology, rather than getting out into the great outdoors. Wooden Toyshop has taken a look at the trends in outdoor play and ways that they can get children back outside, enjoying nature.
Why nature is important
The first thing that comes to mind when you think of getting outside, is fresh air and exercise. But these aren’t the only benefits of children playing outside. The University of Michigan found that short term memory improved by 20% after a short walk in nature.
There are also concerns that children who don’t spend time outside every day will develop Nature Deficit Disorder. This means that children will develop a range of mental and physical illnesses in direct relation to not spending time outside.
Playing outdoors is good for lifting a child’s mood, teaching independence as they grow, building strength and developing imagination and problem solving skills.
Not only that, but it is believed there is a direct link between children spending time outside and understanding the importance of looking after the environment.
Are children getting outside less?
Over recent years there has been a lot of talk about the way children are changing.
Constant access to technology and social media has brought with it increased pressures and can also mean that children are less willing to get outside.
It is believed that less than 10% of children currently play outside regularly in natural spaces such as woodland.
A recent study discovered that ¾ of children spend less time outdoors than prison inmates and that children’s roaming status has reduced by 90% in the last thirty years.
Concerns about safety and children preferring to play inside means that they are far less to play outside independently.
Getting interest in nature
It’s not just getting outside that is important, but building an awareness and respect for nature. From reading books relating to nature and animals, to learning to recycle it is important for children’s mental and physical development to appreciate the real world outside.
Although it is good to start young, every age can enjoy the great outdoors. For young children, simply being outside or playing in the back garden will be enough to get them excited to leave technology at home. For older children try old-school games like hide and seek and for teenagers, try exciting things like orienteering to get your children to see how exciting it can be away from the games console.
Ideas for outdoor play
For a more hands on approach to getting children outside, why not get crafty?
Building a fairy garden will have children going outside when they get home from school, rather than sitting down in front of the television. This can be an ongoing project and can be continually added to. It is much like an outdoor dolls house and will encourage imagination, problem solving and give the children space to relax and unwind after a busy school day.
If you want your child to be interested in real nature, then why not take them looking for tracks? Print out a checklist of different track marks and go on a long walk. This is bound to get them interested in the wild animals living in nature.
Need more help?
If you’re still not sure how to get your child excited about spending time outside, why not look into some of the great nature organisations that are set up nationally to support everyone in learning about and enjoying nature.
The World Wetland Trust has a number of locations where families can enjoy their local wildlife and learn about the birds that live in the UK.
The National Trust has many beautiful locations which not only offer country walks and museums, but events and activities through the children’s holidays as well.
The Wild Network is an organisation that wishes to promote nature to all and is particularly focused on children living in urban settings getting the opportunity to play outside and learn about nature
The benefits of getting children outside are numerous, so make sure to get creative and help your children get excited at the opportunity to go outside.
For more information on fun games and ways to incorporate nature into play, make sure to check out the full infographic here.