Nature play is a concept to encourage children to spend more time playing outdoors using their imaginations in a natural setting. It inspires open-ended possibilities for self-designed play, creativity, learning and socialising.
In the past, playing outside in nature was a part of everyday, normal childhood experience. Many of us have fond memories of time spent outdoors riding our bikes around the neighbourhood, swinging from the clothesline, climbing trees, playing backyard games of cricket or soccer that spilled out onto the street, picking fruit straight from home-grown trees, camping, bushwalking and picnics in our beautiful national parks.
Children today are increasingly unable to relate to these experiences. In fact, South Australian children are spending less time outside in nature than at any other time in our history. In the space of just one generation, there has been a dramatic shift in childhood activity from outdoors to indoors driven by a number of factors including the advent of new screen-based technologies and the emergence of a risk-averse culture.
This has far-reaching consequences for our community. In parallel with the shift indoors we are seeing increasing rates of childhood obesity, depression and behavioural disorders.
Research across the world supports the view that unstructured outdoor play is fundamental to childhood. Opportunities for outdoor play and immersion in nature are essential to the health and wellbeing of children, helping them to develop to their full potential.
Participation in nature play has the ability to enhance children’s cognitive flexibility and creativity, boost self-esteem and improve resilience. ‘Nature play’ includes any unstructured play outdoors such as riding a bike, climbing a tree, gardening, bushwalking and swimming at the beach.
Nature play is, of itself, an intrinsic good and from it flows benefits in health, cognitive, social and emotional development and in the building of resilience and creativity. Experience in nature as a child also leads to ‘natural activism’, sometimes known as environmental stewardship, later in life.
The City of Mitcham works closely with Nature Play SA to encourage families to discover the beauty of getting dirty in an outdoor adventure. Check out the Nature Play SA website for information, ideas and resources to use, opportunities for free entry into South Australian Parks, and passports for kids to fill in when they have completed simple and fun activities, like climbing a tree or digging for worms!
There are beautiful reserve areas in the City of Mitcham, including natural bushland reserves, developed parks, reserves and playgrounds, and lineal reserves along natural creek lines which are suitable for using as nature play spaces.
There are many National Parks and National Trust reserves in our area, which include:
Sturt Gorge Recreation Park
Shepherds Hill Recreation Park
Belair National Park
Wittunga Botanic Gardens
National Trust Reserves
For a list of parks, reserves and playgrounds in the Mitcham area, please click here.
For more information on parks in and around the Mitcham area, please visit the National Parks website.