A growing body of evidence indicates that humans thrive when they’re in harmony with nature. Unstructured, outdoor play is fundamental to a healthy childhood. The research shows that playing in & with nature provides enormous benefits for children of all ages.
Nature play is demonstrated to promote cognitive, social and emotional development, such as improved social skills and reduced stress, anger & aggression. Infants, toddlers & older children develop healthy, resilient bodies from time spent exploring outdoors. Interacting hands-on and whole-body with natural materials means they are stimulated cognitively and physically by the sights and sounds in outdoor spaces.
Nature play often occurs without direction meaning children must create their own rules, structure and goals. Outdoor play in school-aged children is linked to improved problem-solving and reasoning, creativity, curiosity, risk-identification, self-regulation as well as social and emotional learning.
Older children & adolescents who regularly interact with nature also experience reduced rates of obesity & enhanced emotional well-being and resilience.
The research shows that being in nature is also beneficial for parent-child communication. Children are more talkative, parents are more responsive and parent-child conversation is more connected when it occurs in natural environments.
High quality parent-child communication is positively associated with children's cognitive development, particularly social outcomes and may enhance learning more generally.
So, next time you have some time to spend with your child, take a stroll outside to re-connect with nature and each other. Play in a park, your yard, the beach, some bushland and let them be themselves, allow them to play, explore, challenge themselves, discover and create.
References: Cameron-Faulkner, Melville & Gattis 2018; Kellert 2005; Chalwa et al 2015