Connecting with Nature in Early Childhood Education

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Nature is one of the best places for kids to spark curiosity and connection, but it doesn’t have to mean taking them out into the wilderness. Any natural spot will do – parks, playgrounds and community spaces are perfect for encouraging outdoor play.


The benefits of nature play

Nature play has a huge range of benefits for young children. As adults, we all know that getting outside is a good way to reconnect with both our physical and mental health because it promotes overall wellbeing. Children are no different. Enabling children to experience the natural world encourages curiosity, confidence and problem-solving skills.

Educators observe that nature programs in child care centres help them develop a sense of wonder as they slow down and look at what’s going on around them.

It may also prompt young minds to develop skills in risk assessment as they learn to approach the natural world with caution and respect.

Further benefits include:

  • Developing awareness of new ideas and concepts
  • Honing their communications skills
  • Being inspired to collaborate and share what they have learned
  • Problem solving and risk assessment
  • Wonder and delight
  • Creativity
  • Developing a sense of adventure


How can we help kids engage with the environment?

Providing opportunities for children to connect with nature is something early learning centres can easily do.

Getting in touch with nature doesn’t have to mean going on a hike. It could simply mean taking children to the park, visiting a reserve or finding an outside corner for children to explore.

5 fun activities for outside

  1. Make a rainbow: This is a simple game to play in the yard or in a park. Challenge children to find plants and objects in as many colours as they can. Simply set a set a timer and watch them run around until they have their rainbow.
  2. Leaf art: this is a great activity which rolls nature and craft into one! First, children will need to go outside and find leaves with strong, interesting patterns. Take these leaves inside and lay them out beneath a piece of blank paper. Now, remove the wrapper from a crayon and show them how to rub the crayon lengthways over the surface until the pattern of the leaf starts showing through. Magic!
  3. Treasure hunt: Make a list of objects found in your natural environment and send children out to collect them. They’ll have a lot of fun searching and learning as they go.
  4. Explorers: This is a great one to play if you have access to a wilderness reserve, bushland or nature walk. Help children imagine they are explorers looking for the biggest tree, a spot to camp, water etc. and watch their imaginations take flight.
  1. Make a garden: Establishing a garden at your centre requires a bit of effort that will pay off in the long run. Gardening gives children the opportunity to learn about natural processes. They’ll enjoy getting their hands dirty as well as touching, smelling and even eating what they find.

Tips on fostering environmental awareness

While getting out in nature, educators can do a few things to foster environmental awareness.

Ask children questions that require them to observe their surrounds. What do they see? What do they smell? How does it feel to be outside?

Giving young children opportunities to develop a love of nature means creating a generation that is ready to navigate any environmental challenges they may face in the future.

Promoting a sense of wonder

We believe in making space for children to connect with nature, promoting curiosity in care settings. Check out our courses in early childhood education and care to find out how.



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