Nature play

Exploring natural materials in the environment

Materials Required

  • leaves
  • bark
  • sticks
  • dirt
  • clay
  • sand
  • branches
  • water

Optional materials

logs, large river rocks, string, ice, mud, feathers, tanbark/natural ground covering, sprinkler

Play experience profile

Play Experience Preparation

Ensure you have all appropriate clothing/snacks/water/hats/sunscreen - Collect items to use at home - If at home - get a container to use water in - Extension resources if needed - Take bag to collect found objects

Experience Steps

  1. Take children into natural space and allow them to explore natural settings. Encourage the child/children to show you what they have found.
  2. Use natural resources at home, preferably in an outdoor space. This activity can be done inside with collected materials if going outside is not an option.
  3. Encourage your child to look at one thing at a time. Look at objects/resources with them talk to them about what you could do with them.
  4. If using the extension activities - Engage in different types of play with child/ children. This might be cooking/shops/tea/replaying something that happens at home.
  5. Set aside some time for the child to explore different objects.

What to talk about, or questions to ask during the experience

  • Toddlers are active explorers, encourage them to explore nature as they see it. This may be picking up rocks on a walk or jumping in a puddle.
  • Ask them to talk to you about what they are seeing, feeling, tasting, noticing, hearing.... Talk to them about your observations.
  • Invite them to explore and use different parts of their bodies to climb, run, jump, hang, smell, touch different things.
  • Support child to explore in a way they feel comfortable - Are you ok? Look at that, you seem so excited...
  • If they become nervous or uncomfortable, stop and support them in finding something else to explore - I can see you are feeling..., do you need to stop, are you ok?
  • Do you need help? How can I help you? Look at what you have done/made/worked out. Can you show me how you did that.
  • If child becomes stuck due to climbing too high - I can see you are stuck, do you need me? Talk them through how to climb back down so they build confidence.

Build on this...

  • Dramatic play - cooking. Taking pots/pans/buckets/shovels in an outdoor space with natural elements.
  • Art - e.g. transient/ephemeral art

WHO guidelines for physical activity and sedentary behaviour

Provide evidence-based public health recommendations for children, adolescents and adults on physical activity. Learn more

This experience encourages children to explore in nature, which promotes physical activity.

EYLF Outcomes

The Early Years Learning Framework has been designed for use by early childhood educators working in partnership with families, children’s first and most influential educators. View PDF

  1. Children resource their own learning through connecting with people, place, technologies and natural and processed materials
  2. Children develop dispositions for learning such as curiosity, cooperation, confidence, creativity, commitment, enthusiasm, persistence, imagination and reflexivity
  3. Children develop a range of skills and processes such as problem solving, inquiry, experimentation, hypothesising, researching and investigating

EYLF Principle

Principle 4: Respect for diversity. Children are born belonging to a culture, which is not only influenced by traditional practices, heritage and ancestral knowledge, but also by the experiences, values and beliefs of individual families and communities. Respecting diversity means within the curriculum valuing and reflecting the practices, values and beliefs of families.

EYLF Practice

Practice: Learning environments. Indoor and outdoor environments support all aspects of children’s learning and invite conversations between children, early childhood educators, families and the broader community. They promote opportunities for sustained shared thinking and collaborative learning.


Early Childhood Australia

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