Why Is Nature Play Important?

Children Walking through Woods

Through the combination of natural environments and unstructured play, a child’s development can be enhanced.


Unstructured play affects the way in which a child’s brain develops. What is unstructured play? While there is no dictionary definition it is commonly defined as

an unsupervised activity which children partake without adult interference”.

The play is run, directed, and changed by the children playing without adult interference. It can take a simple form or something much more complex which can last for days.

Unstructured play can have so many positive outcomes for our children. There is an increase in the development of adaptive skills, aesthetics skills, cognitive skills, communication skills, sensorimotor skills, and socioemotional skills. Still unsure? That’s ok! Let me walk through this.

Unstructured play helps children’s – creativity, resilience, problem-solving, social skills, and emotional skills (to name just a few).

So why doesn’t unstructured play happen more often?

Well, for that answer I suggest we must look inward, at ourselves, yes, us adults. The ones raising the children. What are we doing to stop them from playing?

This blog post is not meant to blame or point fingers. But I do want to challenge you to think about your children. Or the children you interact with and how they play. Can they play by themselves? Do they play by themselves for long periods of time without your input? Do they need your guidance?

You might be thinking that the answer to some of these questions are yes. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, however, you may want to look at incorporating more nature play into the life of the children around you. So back to our question. Why is nature play important?

Children Playing on Swing Outside
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Nature Play Queensland defines nature play as

“any activity that gets children active or thinking actively outdoors”.

So, the aim is to have unstructured play outside.

In the late 1980s, a man named Stephen Kaplan started writing about an idea called Attention Restoration Theory. Simply put, he states that humans have increased concentration when exposed to natural environments. His idea has been studied for years and much of the current research agrees with him. Some doctors now provide a script of getting out in nature to help their patient’s wellbeing.

So, when you combine the outdoors (proven to improve our mental health) and unstructured play (proven to improve our children’s development) you have a powerful combination that can change the way in which children grow and learn. Giving them a gift of helping them reach their full potential. What adult doesn’t want kids who grow into resilient, well-adjusted adults.

Contact us to talk about how we can help you increase nature play into your environment.