Outdoor play is essential to the well-rounded development of our little ones. Afterall, the word “kindergarten” literally translates into ‘children in the garden’. Now that’s saying something!
Greener Spaces Better Places caught up with Professor Tonia Gray, nature-based learning expert devoted the majority of her career to examining the relationship between people and nature, to get all the (scientific) dirt on the benefits of getting kids outdoors and into nature.
Tonia, what are some of the benefits in getting kids outdoors and in the garden?
For kids, spending time outdoors is both liberating and empowering. Their imaginations are enhanced by free unstructured play. Learning in natural environments such as the backyard or the garden encourages self-mastery in our little ones through risk taking, resilience, self regulation and self-discovery. Not to mention children can burn off excess energy, helping them to feel calmer.
What about benefits in brain development?
Nature contact also plays a crucial role in brain development with one study finding cognitive development was enhanced in connection with green space, particularly with greenness at schools. So, by just getting out in and amongst the greenery, you’re doing great things for your mind and physical body – whether you’re moving about in that natural place or not.
How does getting outside in nature stack up against all the indoor activity we’re seeing given the rise in technology?
In the last few decades, we really have become an indoors and sedentary society which has become disengaged from the natural world. Our nature-estranged lifestyle when paired with our indoor stationary behaviours coupled with our addiction to our tech devices, has made this disconnect more apparent. Time outdoors in nature is restorative. It fosters a sense of calmness and tranquillity. As much as possible, we need to encourage playtime outdoors and in nature, rather than on screens. More green, and less screen!
It could be as simple as letting the kids roam free to discover the wonders of the natural world themselves, to building activities around the outdoors like a nature scavenger hunt, or creating a garden with them full of native plants that will attract the birds and the bees.
For those who don’t have an outdoor garden, how can the kids still reap the benefits?
Head to a local park, take a bush walk, or as the Greener Spaces Better Places simple science shows, simply having a range of plants inside the home encourages feelings of relaxation and creativity.
The 2021 Plant Trend Report suggests the idea of a nature station; a space within the home where a child can delve into unstructured play to explore the intricacies of plant life and objects sourced from nature. This can be as simple as a cushioned corner with a few leaves, stones, and feathers to interact with, or it can be a child-friendly backyard jungle packed with nature-based activities and native plants to attract the birds and the bees.
There’s plenty of plants that are safe for kids, just head to your local nursery and have a chat with the experts there.
For more ways to get kids amongst nature, check out:
- Safe indoor and outdoor plants for kids
- Micro-gardening: the family hack for small spaces
- Ain’t no party like a plant-themed birthday party
All images credited to Allan Mas