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Role of Nature in Children Development

Our most memorable memories from childhood always include some form of outdoor play. Climbing trees, collecting leaves and flowers, and jumping on puddles in the rain, were the exhilarating experiences we had.

Photo by Kebun Kumara Documentation

In the world now where kids mostly engage in indoor activities and their free time spent with screens, parents are desperate to get their children outside. To make things worse, with most school activities spent inside, children very rarely get the chance to play outdoors.


The Benefits

Nature play is when children are given the chance to have unstructured play in outdoor settings using natural elements. It improves all aspects of the child’s development. Including [1] :

1. Physical wellness

This is one of the most obvious benefits of nature play. When children spend time outdoors and in nature, they move in ways which are different to other kinds of activities. They run, climb, jump and lift things. Nature and outdoor settings encourage children to be more active.

Photo by Kebun Kumara Documentation

2. Social-emotional benefits

Unstructured nature play provides children a chance to be creative, to use their imagination. And these types of imaginative play usually are socially level, with no concept of hierarchy. So children learn to socialize better and solve problems independently, therefore promoting self-confidence and self-regulation.

Photo by Kebun Kumara Documentation

3. Spirituality

Most nature play activities involve children as caretakers. Through this, children learn that they are part of nature and that each being has its cycle of life and death.

Photo by Kebun Kumara Documentation

4. Mental health

Studies have shown that spending time in nature lowers stress and anxiety, helping students feel better overall. Some also show that nature play helps reduce Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

5. Academics

According to studies and reports, children who engage actively in nature play are having various improvements in academic aspects. Such as improved behavior in a classroom setting, increased motivation to learn, as well as better performance in various subjects such as math, science, reading and social studies.

Nature play significantly influences children’s holistic development. Numerous educational institutions across Australia, such as Mapleton State School, have integrated unstructured nature play into their daily routines. Mapleton State School, for instance, has enhanced this approach by establishing a nature play zone with natural elements and incorporating a nearby creek into their educational activities.

Photo by Kebun Kumara Documentation

Nature Play Implementation in Indonesia

You may be wondering “Then how can my kids get to experience nature play?” or if you are a teacher “How can my students experience nature play?”

Some schools in Indonesia may have implemented some aspects of nature play but it is limited to some extent. Activities like taking care of the school's garden, and cleaning the surrounding area which we often call “kerja bakti” once in a while have nature play aspects in it. Though these are great activities, your kids can experience a lot more than you think.

For starters, you can go to the city park that offers flexible activities and time for bonding with the family. If you are more into structured activities in one program, you can join the nearest nature play school in your area.

Another example is Kebun Kumara, a learning garden that hopes to increase awareness of urban dwellers towards sustainability issues and the importance of green space in urban settings.


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