3 simple nature-based activities to try today

3 simple nature-based activities to try today

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Childcare Diploma Student Sienna Shares 3 Simple Nature-Based Activities - This Activity Involves Loose Nature Items - This Picture is of Loose Nature Items

As various states around Australia celebrate Nature Play Week, and with National Play Outside Day on this Saturday (May 1), we’re sharing some of our favourite - and simple - nature-based activities.

There is little as invigorating, or as fundamentally sensory, as getting out among nature — feeling the cool grass beneath your bare toes, the sun warming your nose, and the fresh air that reaches deep inside your chest with every satisfying breath.

Many of us will eagerly endorse nature as a balm for the mind, body and soul, but the health benefits associated with outdoor connections actually have been central to a number of scientific studies. Particularly, the benefits for children.

Sienna Craig, Lead Educator and Diploma of Early Childhood Education & Care graduate, has long embraced the importance of nature in early childhood education, and encourages others to do the same through her buoyant online presence at invitation.to.play.

“Nature is filled with open-ended resources ready and waiting to be turned into something new by the power of imagination,” Sienna says.

“Sticks become magic wands, leaves become boats and caterpillars, and rocks become fences and paths,” she says.

Coined ‘nature play’ in the industry, immersive (and often unstructured) outdoor play in early childhood education is shown to have immense benefits for children’s cognitive, behavioural and physical development.

“Nature play can increase wellbeing, strengthen fine and gross motor skills, and help children assess and manage risk,” Sienna says.

“When outdoors with space to run, hide, play and explore, children are often fully engaged, happy, curious, exploring, tinkering and forming friendships. We also see a huge decrease in behavioural issues.

“Natural environments spark conversations and offer children the opportunity to ponder questions like ‘Where do ants live?’ or ‘How do plants grow?’. Then, we as educators can encourage further learning to discover these answers,” she says.

For those of us without easy access to outdoor environments, Sienna says it is still possible to integrate nature-based activities into your daily activities with children.

“The more time children can spend outside the better, but when planning indoor environments, it is possible to bring the outside in,” she says.

Sienna encourages educators and families to collect items from their own backyards, gardens, or nearby parks, such as leaves, sticks, seed pods, pinecones and other safe items that have fallen into the ground.

“However, remember to respect the natural environment and leave the flowers for the bees,” she says.

Then, when you have a few key items, incorporate these into your activities.

“Nature items can be used to count with, make homes, draw or paint on, build with, and make steppingstone paths,” Sienna says.

“The possibilities are endless.”

 

Sienna’s Top 3 Nature-Based Activities

1. The Bug Hunt

What do you need? Magnifying glass/s, a camera (optional)

What do you do? Invite the children to search for bugs using a magnifying glass. Encourage children to thoroughly (but carefully!) inspect the outdoor environment around them, including leaves, trees, and dirt.

Discussion prompts: Can you see any bug tracks, trails or homes? What does the bug look like? What is it doing? Where is it going?

Learning outcomes:

  • Children connect with the world
  • Children become confident and involved learners

 

2. Nature Patterns

Childcare Diploma Student Sienna Shares 3 Simple Nature-Based Activities - This Activity Involves Loose Nature Items - This Picture is of Loose Nature Items

What do you need? Leaves, rocks, sticks, other small nature items, inspiration pictures (optional)

What do you do? Place the nature items around the edges of a dedicated space either on a table or the ground. Encourage children to create symbols or patters with the pieces. Keep your inspirational pictures visible or demonstrate a few patterns first.

Observation points: Observe the way children interact with the items. Can they make a pattern? A shape? An object? Do they group colours or objects together? Keep in mind that younger children will typically create simpler lines and shapes.

Learning outcomes:

  • Children connect with the world
  • Children become confident and involved learners
  • Children begin to understand how symbols and patterns work

 

3. Clay Sculptures

Childcare Diploma Student Sienna Shares 3 Simple Nature-Based Activities - This Activity Involves Clay And Loose Nature Items - This Picture is of Clay)

What do you need? Clay, seed pods, sticks, dried flowers, leaves, and other small nature items

How do you set it up? Simply place all the items on a table and invite the children to create objects with them.

Discussion points: Ask children about the textures of the clay and nature items: can you pinch, pull, roll, squeeze or press the clay?

Learning outcomes:

  • Children are connected with the world
  • Children are confident and involved learners

Be sure to check out more of Sienna's inspiring creative spaces at invitation.to.play!

Childcare Diploma Student Sienna Shares 3 Simple Nature-Based Activities - This Activity Involves Clay - This Picture Is Of Clay And Children's Hand
Childcare Diploma Student Sienna Shares 3 Simple Nature-Based Activities - This Activity Involves Clay And Loose Nature Items - This Picture is of Loose Items

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