Originally published in The Natural Parenting Magazine

Children thrive when they experience nature and the connection it brings to their lives. There are so many incredible benefits nature brings to children when they can explore the outdoors and play in their own way, the way their body is designed too.

I was that child who loved being outdoors. I loved the classes where we were active and outdoors and I thrived in those environments. All our holidays were outdoors on farms, beaches, rivers, lakes, forests, and camping. These holidays lead me to study outdoor education and teaching.

When I was looking for a preschool for my first child, I was shocked at the size of the outdoor space and what little space was available. This was not what I was imagining for my child.

I remembered seeing bush kindergartens overseas and this led me to set up my own bush kindergarten here in New Zealand.

During these sessions, we would attract nature-loving families, families who wanted to build resilience in their children and sadly families who had been told their children were naughty.

The interesting thing is that those children who were described as having challenging behaviours would either have no obvious behaviour challenges or they would be much less common in our natural environment.

What I have seen is that all children thrive when they get to lead their own play in nature. Challenging beahviours are not so challenging and parents seem much more relaxed too.



Nature play is the ultimate in free play. Unmediated by toys or adult-created environments, kids find everything they need to learn and play. A stick can be a magic wand, a tool for digging, a home for bugs, or just a stick. A tree can be a world to explore, a climbing frame, a house.

Nature is the perfect place for imagination, exploration, and physical play. Kids will learn confidence in themselves, resourcefulness, and love for nature and the world around them.



Research shows us there are many benefits to connecting our children with nature.  It can support multiple developmental domains including intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual and physical.

It develops problem-solving abilities, self-belief, enhances cognitive skills and improves academic performance.

It also increases physical activity, can improve nutrition, eyesight, social relations, self-discipline and reduce stress. Daily contact with nature can show many positive impacts.



By spending regular time outdoors and in nature with your children, letting them lead their own play, you are helping them to nurture their physical, social and emotional development.

  • Enable them to engage with their senses while outdoors: sound, sight, touch, smell and taste. Sensory play is one of the main ways in which children learn. So let them get wet and muddy. I have never met a child who got so wet that they couldn’t get dry again.
  • All ages from babies to teens should be regularly spending time outdoors to help them manage their emotions. Spending just 20 minutes outside helps us to regulate emotions. This is a great skill to have when we are feeling upset or stressed, we can go outside to help calm ourselves down.
  • Regular play in nature grows stronger relationships between parents and children and builds your child’s resilience too.
  • Share any knowledge you have about the natural world. If you know a tree name point it out. If you know a story of a place you are visiting, share the story. You can also find out together!



Parenting can be tough. We are often looking after everyone else’s needs and putting our own to the bottom of the pile. To be the best parent we can be it’s essential to nurture our own well-being to help stay centered through the day-to-day challenges.

Nature is an affordable and feel-good option to help you nurture yourself throughout your week.

  • Spend regular time in nature. Be present in the moment and let it nurture your mind body and soul. Feel the sun on your face, the wind in your hair. Close your eyes and place your hand on your heart and just breathe.
  • Practice mindfulness in nature. This can be listening to a mindfulness track, noticing the sounds, sights and smells as you walk
  • Walk outside barefoot and find somewhere to stand on the grass or earth. Feeling the earth beneath your feet, the mud between your toes, or the tickle of grass on your feet. It’s a wonderful grounding feeling and connects us to the moment.
  • Meet friends at your local park or reserve. We are social beings. Even if it feels hard to get out of your house, once you are there and talking with another human being it will all feel worth it. We need to connect with other humans and this will definitely help you to nurture your mental health.
  • Sit outside in the sun and have a cup of tea. No phone just you and the warmth of the sun for 5 to 10mins.
  • Do some gardening. It’s a great way to clear your mind and connect to nature at the same time. If you don’t have a garden go for a walk and smell the flowers along the way.

Nature is our teacher, food provider, and home. By connecting our children to nature we are helping develop their resilience while developing positive mental health strategies for years to come. So get outdoors and let them play in nature every day.


Want some support from our parenting coach and peaceful parent instructor? email celia@littlekiwisnatureplay.com to book a free 20minute conversation to share your challenges and see if Celia will be a good fit for your family.

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