Over the past five weeks, we’ve learned and had so much fun engaging in nature play together. This week, we want to delve a little deeper into what nature play is and give you some ideas of how you can explore nature play outside with your little one this spring.
First of all, what is nature play? There is a definition from The Oregon Play Initiative that we really like:
“Natural Play challenges and fascinates children and teaches them about the wonders and intricacies of the natural world while they explore and play within it. It is intuitive and unstructured, constructive (or deconstructive), and timeless, encouraging interaction with natural materials, features, indigenous vegetation, and creative landforms. Natural Play is often a blend of materials and experiences to create purposely complex interplays of natural and environmental objects.”
Play in nature and with natural materials has a wealth of benefits for your child, ranging from cognitive development to emotional health. All in all, there is a lot of research out there that tells us that children who engage with nature are happier and healthier overall. That’s an idea we can really get behind!
Playing outside is something you’re probably already doing with your child, but we wanted to really amp up your play with some activities to get you and keep you outside this spring:
Plant something! Watch it grow.
Spring is a time for growth. The sun shines down and we get plenty of rain to give seeds the boost they need to grow into flowers, trees, and the food we eat. Choose some seeds to plant and let your child help you water them. Watch the seeds grow together. You can even track the growth from week to week and see how long it takes until a flower blooms or a vegetable appears. If it’s edible, you can use it to cook something and enjoy a tasty treat!
Go on a hunt for the rainbow
Though it may be tough to spot a real rainbow, you can find the colors of the rainbow all over! As flowers start to bloom, take walks through the park or just around your neighborhood to see how many different colors of flowers you can find. If you keep track of the colors you see each time, you just may discover the whole rainbow! Here's a simple way to help you keep track of the colors you find: http://www.girllovesglam.com/2015/05/color-hunt-outdoor-preschool-game-printable.html
Use mud to make art!
You may look at the muddy puddles left after a rainstorm and think to yourself, “Yuck! What a mess!” Even though you wouldn’t be wrong in saying mud is a mess, messes can be really fun! If you take a scoop of gloppy mud and mix it with a touch of paint, you can make messy mud into a beautiful and natural work of art. Sticking your fingers into a bowl of mud paint and drawing on the sidewalk can be the perfect activity after a rainy day! Find a good recipe here: http://www.learnplayimagine.com/2014/03/mud-paint-recipe.html
Go ahead, splash in those puddles!
It’s no secret that even though spring brings some much needed sunshine, it also brings rain, and a lot of it. Sometimes rain keeps us inside, but other times it can mean it’s time for one of our favorite activities—puddle jumping!! Get out your raincoat and your boots and get to splashing! Jumping in puddles gets us moving and allows kids to take the lead. While you’re out there, see what else the rain brought with it. Can you find any worms wiggling out from the soil? Are there leaves that blew down from the trees up above and are now floating on a puddle’s surface?
Colorful window art
There are going to be days when the rain or cold weather prevents you from playing outside this spring, but it shouldn’t stop you from having fun! A simple rainy activity for you and your child is sticking foam shapes to your windows with a little bit of water. You can explore different shapes, colors, and patterns as you add to your picture. Here is a link to instructions on how to recreate this simple project at home: http://theimaginationtree.com/2011/04/spring-foam-window-murals.html
We hope you have fun this spring trying out these ideas and other nature play activities! As always, we love to hear how you are incorporating nature play into your lives. We also have many more ideas if you need them, just ask!
--Emily Van Laan