Throughout history nature play has happened automatically during childhood, but today that kind of play that has been a cherished part of childhood for so many generations is endangered.Many more people live in cities and suburbs today, where access to wild spaces appropriate for children’s play often is very limited. A lot of children today spend more time indoors and are more or less disconnected from the natural world and it has a huge impact on their health, development and knowledge about nature. The disconnection between children and nature is one of the most pressing and overlooked crises in our time.
Does the loss of childhood nature play really matter?
Yes it does!
During the early childhood years children need opportunities to get out and explore nature without predetermined activities or objectives. Research shows that natural environments and outdoor play are beneficial to children in many ways. Playing outdoors is important for developing capacities for creativity, symbolic play, problem solving and intellectual development.
Physical activities from an early age is particularly relevant if we consider the growth of children’s obesity worldwide, but also prevent heart disease and other health issues later in life. This is maybe the generation that will have a shorter life expectancy, than their parents.
Frequent, unstructured childhood play in natural settings has shown to be the best influence to develop life-long conservation values.The world’s environmental problems are increasing and it is important to raise a future generation ,who have positive views of nature and are willing to take action to protect it. Temporary visits to nature in a diverse range of settings, from zoos to national parks, will probably not foster bonds with nature. If we want future generations to bond and fall in love with nature, outdoor play must have high priority in children’s everyday activity, especially during the childhood years.
No-one will protect what they don’t care about and no-one will care about what they have never experienced.
Sir David Attenborough
Children that have many opportunities to play and discover nature will get knowledge about all that is living and growing, they will understand our living conditions better. Nowhere is so much to discover, to play with, as in nature and nowhere can children get so much knowledge about their own living conditions, as they can in a small piece of wild nature. Experiences in nature give a feeling of responsibility to nature and animals, all that is living. No environment is so full of play material, as nature. Nature gives children a maximum of space to run, jump, climb, roll, spin to a minimum of prohibitions and restrictions. In nature children’s big needs of movement, knowledge, interaction and thrill are fulfilled.
Outdoor and natural play increases children’s
Gross motor skills
Eye and hand coordination
Scientific and mathematical exploration
In nature children can discover how nature works, learn the correct names for animals and plants and learn to question and investigate.The best way for small children to learn is, when they can see objects, touch them, taste them, hear them and smell them.
Let children be active learners, children benefit from active hands-on discovery learning opportunities. To give children environmental education for sustainability at an early age,withhands-on experience in nature is more important than ever.Outdoor playpromotes a relationship with the natural environment and provides an environmental knowledgeandecological understandingof the world. The future will need ecological literate adults who are able to recognize common plants, animals and interpret what they see in nature. Let children play in the mud, pick flowers, climb trees, collect natural items.
Everything goes around in nature. The life cycle of a tree provides children with a god example of recycling in nature. Leaves that fall down from the tree, make a leaf litter on the forest ground. Leaf litters are habitat for a big variety of nature’s recyclers. Nature's own clean-up crew.
Let children meet the tiny creatures that are critical players on this planet, as pollinators and helpers in nature and gardens. Bees, butterflies, ladybugs, ants, snails, slugs, beetles, sow bugs, millipedes etc. Children will discover that even the smallest animal has an important role in our ecosystem.
Respect, protect, and preserve the natural world! Children must be educated not to leave rubbish behind and throw things away in the environment. We as adults must help children to understand the damage litter can do to wildlife and the environment. We need to be good row models and practice environmental good manners. Children don’t do as we say, they do as we do!
Respect for all living Teach children the Four Ls about living creatures
Look at the them
Learn about them
Let them go
Leave them alone
Nature is also the ultimate resource for eco-friendly craft and art materials for children Nature is filled with some of the best “toys” that can be offered. Natural materials with open-ended possibilities stimulate and empower children’s creativity, imagination and fantasy and they can be used in play in many ways. Nature based loose parts can range from simple natural materials. Pieces of bark, small stones, seeds, pine cones, twigs, fallen leaves, flowers, branches, pebbles and so on.
If we want future generations to carry on the work of conservation, willing to care and protect the environment, then nature and outdoor play must be restored.