Monday, October 15, 2018

Nature Play Fun: Creating Temporary and Mobile Nature Play Spaces

Why Nature Play?
build creativity, imagination, and problem solving
Poster--Check out Wilder Child's Nature Play poster

Why Temporary or Mobile Play Spaces?  
Nature Play Days, community programming, parties, after school events   

Podcast Episode: Find it here!  

Define spaces and materials as needed.
Consider the affordances of your space. How can you use this optimally?
Invitations should not be limitations of children’s play, but rather starting points. Keep it open ended.
Use bags, totes, baskets or crates to make it portable/grab and go.
Have a few “floater” volunteers/staff for supervision.
Review playwork principles for how adults might interact during play sessions.
Consider ages and stages, though nature play allows for developmentally appropriate experiences.
Have a question or sign describing what might happen in the space, if not apparent.
Cultivate a variety of approaches to nature play to meet the needs of many participants.
Consider setting up a temporary outdoor classroom with spaces for art, movement, building, etc.
Use folding tables (shorter if for young children) as needed for workspaces.
Bienenstock Play—Logs, soil, hay bales, sticks, burlap, tree cookies, etc. Set up a temporary adventure play spot.
Book Extensions—Use a variety of nature/loose parts related books as a starting point for play. Suggestions: Not a Stick, Leaf Man, Salad Pie, etc. See link below.

Dramatic Play—Bring a bag of scarves, fabrics, feather boas, ribbons, costumes, and other dramatic play items outside for storytelling and open-ended dramatic play.

Fairy and Gnome Gardens—I keep a basket of “fairy” stuff we have made over time, though I find most children just love creating their huts and such while in the woods. We like making fairies and gnomes with clothespins, fabric, nature, etc. and hot glue.

Fort Building—Use clamps, rope, bungee cords, tarps, fabrics, sheets, etc. to make forts amongst the trees.

Mud Play/Mud Kitchen—Bring a crate full of cast off dishes, pans, utensils, etc.

Music and Movement—Collect musical instruments, ribbons, scarves, etc. in a basket for use outside.

Nature Art—Small to large frames, bring a basket of nature/found objects or let participants scavenge for stuff. Use examples such as Andy Goldsworthy, Marc Pouyet, Chelsey Bahe, Patrick Dougherty, etc. Find books about this at Nature Art Inspiration

Nature Exploration Kit—Magnifying glasses, bug jars, nets, field guides, etc. Explore nature!

Natural Weaving—Lots of ways to do this! Create cardboard and yarn frames, nature into frame on hike. Use large frames. Use a portable outdoor weaving frame. Weave found objects in nature into these.

Obstacle Courses—Using an open space, bring tubs/crates of cones, wooden planks, rope, expandable tunnels, tires, ladders, pool noodles, hula hoops, etc.  Add in stumps, logs, mud patches, hay bales, and more. Allow participants to change up the course to their hearts content. Honestly, they usually make it better than I can create.

Painting in Nature—String a clear shower curtain up between trees and paint surrounded by nature.

Pop-Up Adventure Play—Gather a variety of boxes, fabrics, rope, duct tape, paint, recyclables and let participants create! See link below.

Pulleys, Rope and Buckets/Baskets—Drape a rope over a branch and/or attach a pulley to a tree branch. Use a basket to transport items. Seriously, kids love this.

Ramps and Balls—Use ramps (wood planks, gutters, PVC pipes cut in half, etc.), crates or stumps, and a variety of balls and natural spheres, to explore physics.

Seed Dispersal—Cattails and milkweed pods can be great fun to explore!

Scavenger Hunts—Participants create their own, use Fundanas, or use printables.

Sticks and Pipecleaners—Bamboo poles or thinner tall branches work well, build structures with pipecleaners, twine, and/or Sticklets.
Tools in Nature—Garden clippers, vegetable peelers, microplaners tree cookies, branches. Teach safety explicitly. Have direct supervision. Establish a small zone for this type of play, at least when introducing.

Water Walls—Attach to existing chain link fence, use funnels, water tubing, L and T connectors, zip ties, pipe cleaners, recyclable plastics, pitchers, water, tools (scissors, hand drill, knife, etc.)—create pathways for water exploration. Add scent and color to water as desired.


“Every child should have mud pies, grasshoppers, water bugs, tadpoles, frogs, mud turtles, elderberries, wild strawberries, acorns, chestnuts, trees to climb. Brooks to wade, water lilies, woodchucks, bats, bees, butterflies, various animals to pet, hayfields, pinecones, rocks to roll, sand, snakes, huckleberries and hornets. And any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of the best part of education.” 
— Luther Burbank (American horticulturalist and botanist, 1849 – 1926)

Additional Resources:
Tinkergarten activities:
Interested in becoming a Tinkergarten leader? Find out more at:
NaturePlay Poster:
Children’s Books for Outdoor Loose Parts Play

Balanced and Barefoot by Angela Hanscom
Deep Nature Play by Joseph Bharat Cornell
Loose Parts Books 1-3 by Lisa Daly and Miriam Beglosvky
Nature and Young Children: Encouraging Creative Play and Learning Natural Environments by Ruth Wilson
Playing It Up with Loose Parts, Playpods, and Adventure Playgrounds Joan Almon, Editor
Play the Forest SchoolWay by Jane Worroll and Peter Houghton
Seasons of Play: Natural Environments of Wonder by Rusty Keeler

The Stick Book: Loads of things you can make or do with a stick by Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield