Children that have many opportunities to play and discover nature will get knowledge about all that are living and growing, they will understand our living conditions better. Nowhere is so much to discover, to play with, as in nature and nowhere can children get so much knowledge about their own living conditions, as they can in small piece of wild nature. Experiences in nature give a feeling of responsibility to nature and animals, all that is living. No environment is so full of play material, as the nature. Nature gives children a maximum of space to run, jump climb, role, spin to a minimum of prohibitions and restrictions. In nature children’s big needs of movement, knowledge, interaction and thrill are fulfilled.
Throughout history nature play has happened automatically during childhood, but today that kind of play that has been a cherished part of childhood for so many generations is endangered.
Many more people live in cities and suburbs today where access to wild spaces appropriate for children’s play often is very limited.
More and more children today have less and less contact with the natural world and it is has a huge impact on their health and development.
Does the loss of childhood nature play really matter? Yes!
During the early childhood years children need opportunities to get out and explore nature without predetermined activities or objectives.
Researches show that natural environments and outdoor play are beneficial to children in many ways. Playing outdoors is important for developing capacities for creativity, symbolic play, problem solving and intellectual development.
The importance of physical activities from early age is particularly relevant if we consider the growth of children’s obesity worldwide but also prevent heart disease, diabetes and other health issues later in life.
Time spent outdoors increase physical activity, healthy development and overall wellbeing.
The world’s environmental problems are increasing and it is important to raise citizens who have positive views of nature and will take action to protect it.
Frequent, unstructured childhood play in natural settings has shown to be the best influence to develop of life-long conservation values. Childhood play in nature lays the foundation for an interest in taking care of the environment later in life.
If we want future generations to carry on the work of conservation, nature and outdoor play must be restored.
Nature is the ultimate resource for eco-friendly craft and art materials for children.
Nature is filled with some of the best “toys” that can be offered. Natural materials with open-ended possibilities stimulate and empower children’s creativity, imagination and fantasy and they can be used in play in many ways. Nature based loose parts can range from simple natural materials, such as pieces of bark, small stones, seeds, pine cones, twigs, fallen leaves, flowers, branches, pebbles and the list goes on and on.
The theory of loose parts
The theory of “loose parts” first proposed by architect Simon Nicholson in the 1970’s has begun to influence child-play experts and the people who design play spaces for children in a big way. Nicholson believed that it is the ‘loose parts’ in our environment that will empower our creativity. In a play, loose parts are materials that can be moved, carried, combined, redesigned, lined up, and taken apart and put back together in multiple ways. They are materials with no specific set of directions that can be used alone or combined with other materials.
In his book “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder”, child advocacy expert Richard Louv directly links the lack of nature in the lives of today’s wired generation—he calls it nature-deficit—disorder to some of the most disturbing childhood trends, such as the rises in obesity, attention disorders, and depression. Nature-Deficit- Disorder is not a medical condition; it is a description of the human costs of alienation from nature.
Julia M Davies, professor in early childhood education Queensland University of Technology has written the book “Young Children and the Environment” second edition. The book is a practical resource that illustrates the difference that early childhood educators can make by working with children their families and the wider community to tackle the contemporary issue of sustainable living.