Outdoor play is an integral part of a child’s development. In fact, the days spent in nature as a child may will shape the person they will become in the future.
When we cast our minds back to our own childhood, the happy memories that we normally think of first are the times that we spent playing outside. In your mind’s eye, what is it that you think of first? Is it trips to the beach, days roaming the forest, or simply afternoons playing out in the garden?
Although these fun-filled days (on reflection) were actually remarkably simple, they stood out to us for being so brilliantly wild and liberating. And times haven’t changed that much - although today’s children have a lot more gadgets and digital toys at their disposal, even amongst all of that, they’ll still remember days spent playing in nature with as much fondness as we do.
Beyond being a wonderful form of timeless fun, outdoor play is actually an integral part of a child’s development. In fact, these days spent in nature as a child may well have shaped the person that we are today.
With this in mind, in this blog post we’ll be outlining the importance of nature and play for children, and exploring the power that they have to fuel a child’s development.
Trends identified in recent studies
We have gained a huge amount of insight from the recent study which has been undertaken by Julie Ernst. Her study, entitled "Young Children’s Contributions to Sustainability: The Influence of Nature Play on Curiosity, Executive Function Skills, Creative Thinking, and Resilience" (which was recently published in Sustainability) outlined the importance of including nature in early education.
For this particular project, Ernst (and her assistant Burcak), monitored children who were studying at nature preschools, based in forest kindergartens in Northern Europe. Forest kindergartens are a type of preschool where the children are able to spend almost all of their school time out in nature.
The aim was to identify how extensive and unstructured natural play can influence the development of young children.
In one of the tests conducted by Ernst and Burcak, they aimed to assess the level of creative thinking that the children possessed. For this, the researcher worked with the children one by one, and two lines were marked onto the ground. Then, they told the child to “Show the different ways you can move to get from one line to the next.”
The way in which children responded to this differed between each child. Ernst stated in the report that, “some children could only think of ideas such as running or walking,” whereas “other children would skip or twirl,” some children would roll or leap, and “some would start moving like ninjas, then moving like snails.”
Ernst concluded that “it was really apparent when there was a high level of creativity”.
The results of her research, in this and a number of other similar studies, has made it clear that being in nature as a child helps to develop their creativity and their curiosity, as well as their ability to be resilient, and their cognitive function across the board.
The many benefits of nature and play
As you can see, nature and play are filled with far more developmental benefits than many parents would have initially anticipated.
Having taken inspiration from Ernst’s insightful study, below we’ve listed some of the key benefits that outdoor play can provide to children.
- Learning about the power of nature. Finding out about how it all works is a great skill for children to develop.
- Developing their creativity. Helping children to build their imagination, and play creatively.
- Get fresh air and exercise.
- Eco-consciousness. Building a deep-rooted care for the natural world and its protection.
- Improving social skills. Helping them to interact with their friends and family, and communicate their thoughts articulately.
- Encouraging your child to feel more confident. This will help them to feel more confident being independent, too.
- Improving their cognitive function.
These are just some of the ways in which incorporating nature and play into a child’s early years can benefit their development.
At Mini beee, our goal is to help make it easier than ever for parents to provide their child with this invaluable form of independent outdoor play. We create eco-conscious outdoor furnishings of a superb quality, in order to encourage children to get outside and let their creativity run to its full potential.
So, if you want to make outdoor natural play part of your child’s daily routine, have a gander at the Mini beee online shop. There, you can browse through our full product range, and learn more about the educational ethos that we are all about.