Here is the perspective of Patti Smith, of Starship Kids in Bristol, VT:
“I have always done nature play and exploring with children! It always depends on what age children I have—there is always some way to participate. I do education and play. The way I look at it is, education should be fun and inviting, exciting. Play should also entail some learning. To me, it’s all kind of intermingled. I think one of the exciting things we did was last fall. The kids were kicking around the leaves (I have a very small orchard), under this one tree. So we made a spiral with the leaves, like a maze, that they could follow, in and out. Then we tied a piece of climbing rope to the tree to wind and unwind as they went along.
It’s healing and refreshing [to be outside]. It’s good for the body and the brain, for oxygen, exercise, and all the senses. Inevitably, they’re moving around more! They could be on their back or belly on the ground. You just never know. They’re usually free-spirited. I find it teaches them sensitivity and expands their sense of respect. I try to teach them to tread softly and respect and care for nature. You’re taking care of yourself, too. It’s a time, especially during COVID, when they don’t have as many limitations. It lets them be themselves.
It encourages learning, exploring, and observing. What is that bird doing?! Why is that squirrel hanging upside down?! Can you do that? What does it feel like to be a leaf? Part of the benefit of nature for children is to put themselves into something else that is growing or was once alive. The other thing that is really important, is they understand birth and death. That’s something that doesn’t always happen– for some children it’s such a foreign, detached situation. But one benefit in nature is you always see something newborn and you always see something dead. Whether it’s a bug, a plant, or an animal. One thing we do will lead to another, and I think that’s the thing about children being in nature, the continuation of play and life, and it’s just all wrapped up together.”