Natural Playgrounds

Why have kids play and explore in nature? Because they already know what to do there – not instructions required. Kids are hard wired to know how to play outside, it is only we adults who interrupt their potential while they are explore. We do this out of our own fears but what if we allow these young explores to take over and investigate all on their own? Just think of what they might come up with. Beyond playing out in a natural environment what if you are interested in building a playground in the back yard for the kids? consider building one out of natural materials. You can keep it simple and put up a few tree stumps to offer space for imaginative play.

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You could create structures that are more complex and offer a fort like set ups so kids feel like they are in their own land and are able to invent new games with new rules. They can build characters and use their imaginations to create whole new worlds.

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Mix nature with richer character development and storytelling by creating an outdoor structure that is a puppet theater combined with a beverage stand or Lucy from Peanut’s Advise stall. Let kids decide how they want to incorporate nature into the story they tell and how they see the world.

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Next time you think “should I let the kids play an hour more on their tech or should I take them to a nearby playground?” consider how healthy it is for kids to have unsupervised, creative outdoor play. Leave them alone because they know what to do out there, just like you did when you where a kid.

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Build Outside – Miniatures

Every summer we go camping and spend days, weeks and even months outside playing in nature. And every summer my girls and their friends build outdoor habitats for the magical, mysterious creatures known as fairies.

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We encourage  magic and mystery with the kids while they are in their natural surroundings. Imaginative play through constructing outdoor fairy houses from natural materials such as bark, sticks, stones, flowers, grasses, acorns and pine cones; along with small pieces of trash they find around the camp site like bottle caps, broken sunglasses, pieces of plastic. We use this collection time to have conversations with our mini architects to talk about preserving nature and not littering. We talk about how harmful it is to birds and water life when people don’t properly dispose of their garbage.

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When  building a fairy house think about all of the possibilities: such as creating a pebble path, making a fence out of sticks, a walnut-shell bathtub,  leaf hammock, a bark bed or a stone table.

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You can do this in your own back yard, at a playground or even in a container filled with dirt on a balcony of an apartment. You need only to get outside, take a walk, carry a bag or a bucket and collect things. Bring back the found goodies to the place you will construct and begin the process to create a welcoming home for fairies.

Want more ideas? Check out these books – they are some of our favorites:

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Fairy House: How to Make Amazing Fairy Furniture, Miniatures, and More from Natural Materials

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Build An Insect Habitat

Getting kids outside and teaching them about insects is an important part of childhood. Encourage kids to not be afraid of bugs. Exploring safe creatures such as the Pill Bug or Rollie Pollie‘s as most kids call them is a great way to start young explorers off with insects. Kids can learn about the stages of a bugs life from egg to adult. They can also do a bit of research at their local library after a day of outdoor play and learn that Pill bugs are actually not insects, they are crustaceans. They are related to shrimp and crayfish, breathe with gills, and need humidity or moisture to survive.

Insect habitats teach kids so many life lessons. Ants demonstrate the importance of working together. Praying mantids teach children about the food chain. Butterflies exhibit the beauty of metamorphosis bot to mention lessons in biomimicry. Bugs and insects make ideal pets for children who cannot own larger domesticated animals due to allergies, housing restrictions, or family finances. There are many prefabricated habitats available in the marketplace, but parents and children can also build their own. Check out this bug mansion:

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With this knowledge they could build a Rollie Pollie habitat to study and observe these creatures.

 

Share nature with kids while they are young and you will create, in them, a life long love of the outdoors. This is important to cultivate future scientists, conservators and explorers along with naturalists and artists inspired by nature.

 

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