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Nature – inspiration for child-led play

Young children have powerful imaginations and are able to lead their own play and development when they are inspired by their environments. This can be something as simple as what nature has to offer.

Posted on Friday 17th April 2015

Meet 4 year old Harry, who had lots to discover on his journey of outdoor play one afternoon when he went out for a walk with Mum. Eager to explore, Harry led the way showing his decision making skills. Some of Harry’s favourite things to do are gather sticks, stomp in muddy puddles and experiment with water. It doesn’t take him long to find all of these things and he enjoys telling his Mum exactly what he is up to – great communication.

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It isn’t long before Harry finds his favourite stick, and of course it is the biggest one he can carry. He practices his balance and co-ordination walking across some stepping stones, developing physically. He is also very interested in the world around him and experiments putting his stick in the water, being mindful not to scare the ducks away.

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It’s time to see what else the woods has to offer so Harry decides to explore some more, taking his stick with him. He likes pretending to be his favourite superhero characters, engaging in his own imaginative play.

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He also likes to take risks in his imaginative play and jump from tall places. He does this several times, and Mum notices him doing this frequently – an example of trajectory schematic behaviour.

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Look over there! In the stream Harry notices some strange activity. It’s frog spawn – so Harry and Mum go to inspect and discuss lifecycles. Lots of intriguing opportunities to develop Harry’s understanding of the world.

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Next he finds a darker, wooded area and he can’t wait to get inside to explore. He finds lots of sticks, leaves, brambles and a fallen tree, which are all great topics for discussion.

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Mum says: “You look like the King of the Forest!” and Harry is overjoyed.

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Harry’s journey that afternoon allowed him to have autonomy to lead his own play which naturally results in lots of engaging learning and development. This type of play, alongside a supportive and nurturing adult boosts a child’s self-esteem and provides healthy exercise for the body and mind – all the while Harry was just having lots of fun.

For more information on guidance to your child’s learning and development in the early years foundation stage, 4Children have produced a useful document supported by the DfE called ‘What to expect, when?’. You can purchase copies, or download it for free.

We’d love to hear your inspiring stories about what your children learn from nature? Reply in the comments below or tweet us @TTS_EarlyYears. You can also follow our Facebook page.