Activities, Tips

Fire up your child’s creativity in nature

April 17, 2018

It’s Nature Play Week –  a great opportunity to discover the benefits of playing and learning in nature.

Here are some ideas to build more outdoor play into your day.

Babies

Babies usually respond well to a change in scenery and a regular outing to the park, creek, beach or nature reserve – even the backyard – is enjoyable for everyone. Getting outside is also therapeutic for sleep deprived parents! Taking a crying or fussing baby outside can really help.

  • Bring a blanket or wrap and do some tummy time while listening and talking about the different sounds and things you see
  • Put your baby in the pram or carrier and go for walk while you talk about the clouds, trees or birds and notice what catches their attention
  • For older babies, encourage exploration and allow them to crawl around and learn about the natural environment. Talk about what you discover together

Toddlers and preschoolers

Active littlies thrive in nature and outdoors. Their natural inclination to experiment and explore makes outings a stimulating experience for your child and for you. Try these fun activities:

  • Depending on your environment, make sandcastles, mud pies, natural forts or daisy chains
  • Start a small veggie or herb garden and nurture it together. You can use recycled egg cartons to start your seedlings. Kid-friendly options include tomatoes, green beans and basil
  • Go on a bug hunt. See how many different bugs you can find and name
  • ‘Paint’ your fence with water for mess-free fun. If you have an outdoor staircase, you can paint the steps. Feed your child’s legs between one of the lower steps and use a stair tread like a desk
  • Cook up a storm. Using some old cooking utensils, cups, plates and pots, make a dish in your outdoor restaurant. Gather ingredients from your environment (sticks, leaves, flowers and water) to prepare your recipe. Take turns being the waiter and the customer
  • If you have a tent or sun shelter, put it up in the backyard and go on a pretend family camping trip
  • Build simple cubbies and plan together how you’ll make them
  • Write messages or your child’s name in the sand or mud
  • Sort things you find in nature into groups. For example you can create and arrange a few piles organised as rocks, sticks, leaves and seed pods
  • Play a game of Poohsticks

Visit your local library

  • Borrow books from your local library that extend your experiences. Some good ones to look for are the Grug series (Ted Prior), The Tiny Seed (Eric Carle), All Through the Year
    (Jane Godwin and Anna Walker),  Isabella’s Garden (Glenda Millard), Imagine (Alison Lester),  Millie loves ants (Jackie French), Big Rain Coming (Katrina Germein), Grandpa and Thomas (Pamela Allen) and Uno’s Garden (Graham Base)
  • You can also try a non-fiction book to learn more about the natural world like A River (Marc Martin)

Some books can inspire outdoor activities – enhancing early literacy learning:

  • Leaf Man (Lois Ehlert) – Collect leaves and make your own leaf man
  • Not A Stick (Antoinette Portis) – What are all the things you can turn your stick into?
  • Little Cloud (Eric Carle) – Lie on your backs together and talk about all the shapes you can see in the clouds

Ask your local library if they do story times or activities outside the library. Across Queensland there are some great sessions available in parks, pools and beaches.