When Karina started looking for child care in Avondale Heights for her toddler, Elijah, she was focused on finding a centre that promoted nature play. Though she lived close to parkland, she didn’t want her two year old to be nature deprived during his time at childcare. To find a convenient childcare centre that had a philosophy of letting children explore the outdoors Karina used the Space app to narrow down her choices to two local centres.
Karina had read Richard Louv’s book ‘Last Child in the Woods’ that discussed how behavioural problems in children could often be attributed to lack of unregulated play in natural areas. Many studies point to increased well-being both physically and mentally that nature play brings to young children.
Cognitive benefits of nature play
Unstructured play in natural surroundings improves children’s cognitive abilities by encouraging them to problem solve, observe and discover. They need to discover different ways to overcome obstacles and use their natural curiosity to examine parts of trees, insects, birds and animals that they come across.
Enhancing physical skills
Nature play is the best way for children to exercise organically. Children’s spatial awareness is challenged as they climb uneven branches and step over mismatched stones. They can pile up rocks or twigs and build cubbies with old branches. Coordination and balance is required to climb rocks and trees and step around natural objects. Physical activity including strength and flexibility promotes long term benefits for children’s mental health and their ability to concentrate and learn.
Childcare educators help children learn in a natural setting
In a childcare setting, children can discuss their observations and ask questions of their educators, helping them learn about the world around them. Children who are exposed to nature in a meaningful way can acquire a lifelong interest in science and the environment.
Elijah loved climbing and exploring in the natural play area at his new Avondale Heights child care centre and Karina was satisfied when he came home happy, exercised and with leaves falling out of his shoes.