Dirt, water, a few stumps and boards, some old pots and pans and spoons. It doesn’t take much to spark hours of wonderful nature play.
To be sure, this will look very different depending on where you live or work and what space is available.
Maybe you’ve got a nearby woods to play in. There, children will discover the seasons – snow and ice for building, branches and sticks for fort making, trees for climbing and hills for sliding, mud and leaves as loose parts. You might bring along a child-sized shovel, some pieces of rope or twine for fastening, a tarp or sled for moving materials – there are countless ways to provision for children’s various interests and projects.
But what if your outdoor play space is an empty lot, a corner of the playground, or a small grassy yard?
Add a mound of dirt or sand, a rain barrel or water spigot, some stumps and boards and other loose parts like sticks, tree cookies, big rocks, cones, etc. Then watch as the children’s imagination take off!
Two milk crates, a board, some pots and pans and spoons, a spray bottle, plus snow or a bucket of dirt, and you’ve got a simple snow/mud kitchen that will inspire plenty of play no matter where you are.
With regular time outside, youngsters will become more and more confident and creative in their unstructured play, and the adult role then is to stand back, watch, listen, and connect with the children’s curiosity and wonder.