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As technology becomes increasingly prevalent in our lives, it’s more important than ever to ensure that our children develop key skills such as curiosity, imagination, and creativity through avenues other than the iPad. It can be challenging to know where to start, especially with little time, resources, and energy. The good news is that outdoor play in nature is one of the best ways to encourage these qualities! In this blog post, we’ll delve into why nature play is essential for children’s development, particularly in a world where technology can dominate their time. We’ll also explore how Eden Academy integrates these activities into our curriculum, helping to foster well-rounded, imaginative learners.

The Power of Nature Play

Playing in nature is a powerful tool for encouraging creativity and imagination in children. When children are outdoors, they are free to explore, experiment, and take risks. Nature is an ever-changing environment that encourages children to use their imagination and curiosity to discover new things. Whether it’s digging in the dirt, building forts, or splashing in puddles, children are learning to engage with the world around them in meaningful ways. Research has shown that nature play can reduce stress and anxiety, increase attention span, and boost cognitive function. These benefits are particularly important for young children who are still developing their cognitive, emotional, and social skills.

Nature play promotes creativity and imagination by encouraging children to think outside the box and explore new possibilities. When children play in nature, they are exposed to a wide range of stimuli that can spark their imagination, such as the shapes and textures of leaves, the sounds of birds chirping, or the movement of water in a stream. This exposure to diverse sensory experiences can help children to develop their creativity and imagination, which are critical skills for problem-solving, innovation, and critical thinking in later life.

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The Role of Eden Academy

At Eden Academy, nature play is an essential part of early childhood education. Our curriculum incorporates outdoor play in nature to allow children to explore, experiment, and engage with the world around them. Our outdoor play spaces are designed to promote exploration, imaginative play, and risk-taking while ensuring that children are safe and supervised.

We believe that children learn best through hands-on experiences, and nature play provides endless opportunities for this type of learning. Our outdoor play spaces include sandboxes, water tables, natural materials, and open-ended play equipment that allow children to create and experiment in their own unique ways.

We also encourage children to observe and interact with the natural world around them by offering “Bush Kindy” excursions where they can play in nature, outside of their centre. 

Incorporating nature play into our curriculum not only promotes creativity and imagination but also encourages children to develop a love for the natural world. We believe that early exposure to nature can instil a lifelong appreciation and respect for the environment, leading to environmentally conscious adults.

outside play area photo of Eden Academy Seaford Childcare & Kindergarten centre. Includes gardens and outside toys

The Benefits of Nature Play

Aside from improving motor skills, balance, and coordination, nature play also provides numerous benefits for children’s development, including physical, cognitive, emotional, and social benefits. 

Enhanced attention spans, problem-solving skills, and critical thinking are some of the cognitive benefits of nature play. Children can observe and investigate the natural environment, nurturing curiosity and a love of learning. 

Additionally, nature play promotes creativity and imagination, helping children to think outside of the box and explore new possibilities.

Emotionally, nature play can reduce stress and anxiety, promoting overall emotional well-being. Being in nature can provide a sense of calm and tranquility, helping children to regulate their emotions, and slow down.

Nature play is particularly important for children who spend a lot of time indoors or in front of screens. Children’s attention spans are being shortened as they are exposed to content with short sharp cuts, like seen on Cocomelon.

With technology playing such a large role in modern life, it’s more important than ever to ensure that children have access to natural environments where they can connect with the world around them and learn to love learning in a more slow-paced way. 

Integrating Nature Play into the Curriculum

At Eden Academy, our educators use nature-based activities to support learning. For example, they might use natural materials like leaves and rocks to create art projects that teach children about colour, shape, and texture. Or they might use outdoor play spaces to teach children about physics and engineering as they build structures or experiment with water flow.

We also encourage children to lead their learning through open-ended play and exploration. By providing a range of natural materials and outdoor play equipment, we empower children to use their imagination and creativity to engage with the natural world in their own unique ways. This approach not only supports their cognitive and social development, but also helps to build confidence and resilience as they take risks and problem-solve in a natural environment.

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Creating a Culture of Nature Play

In order for nature play to be truly effective, it’s important to create a culture of outdoor learning and exploration. This means not only providing opportunities for nature play, but also actively encouraging children to engage with the natural world and fostering a sense of wonder and curiosity about the world around them.

At Eden Academy, we work to create this culture through a range of initiatives. For example, we have a gardening program that allows children to learn about plant growth and care while also fostering a sense of connection to the natural world. 

We also involve parents and caregivers in our efforts to promote nature play. By sharing information about the benefits of outdoor learning and providing ideas for nature-based activities that families can do together, and encourage families to bring in any natural materials that they gather, we aim to extend the benefits of nature play beyond the classroom and into the home.

In a world where technology dominates so much of our lives, it’s more important than ever to ensure that children have opportunities to connect with the natural world. Nature play provides a powerful way to encourage creativity, imagination, and curiosity while also promoting physical and emotional well-being. By integrating nature play into the curriculum and fostering a culture of outdoor learning, we can help children develop a lifelong love of learning and a deep appreciation for the natural environment. At Eden Academy, we are committed to providing these opportunities to every child in our care, and nature play should be an essential part of every child’s education.

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