Nature Play areas for school children

Children fishing in a nature play pond

Nature Play areas for school children

What are Nature Play areas?

Natural Play Areas are outdoor spaces designated for

play that are made of natural components such as plants, logs, water, sand, mud, boulders, hills and

trees. These components represent the larger wild environment in a way that feels safe and manageable

to young visitors. A few man-made components might also be carefully integrated to support creative

play, encourage confident exploration and help children develop a lasting affinity for the natural world.

“If you’ve ever climbed trees, swam in rivers and wells, sucked honey out of flowers, built towers in beach sand, harvested earth worms for fishing, trekked miles on unknown paths, rolled down hills, scrambled up rocks, made mud pies, dammed up water, hidden in grass, played house in bushes, built snow forts, dug in sand, played in dirt, planted seed, jumped in leaves, tracked animals, or had fun outside in other, similar ways,

you’ve experienced natural play.”

Nature Play areas at achools
Nature Play areas

Natural play – what exactly does it mean and what all it includes?

Here’s what people belonging to different cultures and socio economic strata of society had to say about natural play. These were compiled from various blogs relevant to our topic. Read on to get a vivid picture of what natural play could do in your life or that of your child. I became nostalgic while going through some of the experiences mentioned here. There was a sense of pride when I finished reading that I missed none of this in my childhood days. In fact my childhood natural play list would be bigger than the one below. Chasing split kites like a Jackie chan by climbing drain pipes, walking on roof tops and jumping  12 feet down on bear road, fishing at the master well of railway staff quarters with just a string and hook by using live earth worms as bait and letting go the 50 plus fishes caught into the same well, running after anyone who wants to give away pets, aquariums, fishes, cages and cycling 4 miles for buying fish feed and accessories, casting handmade fish hooks without bait from the breakwaters at the neighborhood harbor for hours and returning without  a single catch. The list goes on and on.


– “We had some really nice trees in our backyard… Plum, Fig, Apricot, Loquat trees… and a humongous grapevine that was over an archway… I used to love to sit my little table by the grapevines and eat them right off the vine.” (


– “I loved the lake. I would go out on it in a paddle boat with my brother, and sometimes my family would go fishing and end up catching bass, walleye, and sunfish, which we’d then cook for supper. It was especially fun to explore the lake because its boundaries weren’t so clearly defined…there were certain areas that were almost secretive, and we would always enjoy feeling like adventurers. I remember numerous times when we tried to construct boats out of planks of wood.” (


– “The scent of eucalyptus trees blowing in with warm wind through my bedroom window when all was simple and true in my world.” (

MAKING! – “Making a tent using an old wooden clothes maiden and blankets, then eating sweets and reading in there.” ( –

“There was this giant retaining wall made out of boulders for the lawn of the apartments next door. I would pretend each boulder was a different room in a house and I would play bygoing from room to room and making little furniture pieces out of leaves, sticks and stones. The kitchen was the most fun because then I could make stick bowls and cups to fill with mud pies.”


– “Catching tadpoles all summer long at the forgotten moss pond in the woods, way at the bottom of the log rolling hill behind Nana and Papa’s house.”


– “Lying in the backyard during the night while gazing at the domed universe of stars, feeling as if I could be sucked up and away to surroundings unknown, which forced me to hold the grass blades thinking that they would stabilize me if the force of gravity gave way.” ( – “Walking through the woods with my dog and climbing what I then called ‘mountains’, exploring creeks and looking up at the heavens from grassy fields.” (

– “As a fair skinned, red-head I have many memories of playing outside or boating on lakes in Iowa and Minnesota then suffering for days afterwards. The pain didn’t stop me; instead I played under the cover of the woods or at night when our woods became even more magical and mysterious.”


– “I remember a play area. It had a swing that was attached to the underside of a fake, plastic tree branch. The fake tree was hollow and you could sit inside. I remember getting my first kiss inside that tree from a girl I met.”


– “I was a tomboy and when I most felt joy and peace is when I was in the woods making camps, climbing trees and picking blueberries….we used to all pick blueberries together my cousins, aunts and my grandma….those were my best memories being with nature.” (

– “I used t climb up the wrought iron and onto the roof of our front verandah, then onto the roof when I wanted some peace. It was lovely.” (

– “I have precious memories of the poplar tree that grew in our yard. I would climb the tree and sit for hours on a branch, shaded in my leafy hideaway, looking at the blue sky.” (


– “Long road trips with my family as we drove across the Midwest to visit grandparents were the perfect time to gaze at the big skies over cornfields. On these trips I discovered my favorite color with each sunset – skyblue-pink, in all of its glorious shades.” (

– “I would run outside in just my nightgown, no shoes, and sit in the morning glory patch. When the first rays of the sun touched the sleeping flowers—poof! They would open up to greet the morning.” (


– “One stormy spring day we were out in woods and came across a huge rock cliff when the rain started. We huddled closer toward the side of the rocks to shield ourselves from the wind and rain, when suddenly we noticed millions of tiny snails coming out of the porous rock, it was awesome to watch. Nature’s secrets unfold at certain times under certain conditions before the naked eye!” (

BIKING! – “After a rain storm I would grab my bike and ride like a wild thing all around the vacant lot across the street from my house. I would hit every single mud puddle, duck under branches, shaking the rain off all the leaves, and come home soaking wet and covered with mud from head to toe. Boy, was that fun!” (


– “I loved falling asleep in the grass to the sound of the summer breeze rustling our neighbor’s giant poplar tree. I often imagined it was the sound of rushing water. When they cut down the tree I cried and cried.”

– “I enjoyed riding on the front of the boat we had. I could not hear the sound of the engine. It was nice and quiet. The ocean smelled so good. The warm sunshine shining down on me was not too hot because of the wind blowing in my face.”


– ”One summer, my brother and I were under the old railway bridge that was on the site. It crossed over the slow river and was the perfect place for the kids to play. We were all swinging from the cross beams on the bridge when my brother lost his grip. He fell… straight in to the largest bed of stinging nettles I had ever seen. He was wearing shorts. We ran back to the tent with 10 kids in tow. Magic sting cream applied to his entire body, he spent much of the next week sat at the side watching us all play football.”


– “In the evening we would lie on the lawn of this very steep hill and watch the bats come out to feed. They would sometimes fly within a foot of our faces and we would scream with fear and delight.”


– “I grew up on a farm and was generally sent outside after breakfast and only returned to the house for lunch and dinner. I spent hours building forts and hideouts in the trees, playing hide and seek among hay bales, fishing in the pond, staring at the clouds while laying in the grass, the smell of freshly cut alfalfa, playing in the creek and getting covered in mud, and generally having a ball!” (

– “My parents took my brother and I on a variety of camping trips every other weekend during the summers when we were growing up. We camped in tents, a pop-up trailer, and even owned a motor home for several years. One of my favorite camp grounds that we frequented was named Colorado Heights Camp Ground. There, my brother and I were given free reign to run, play, dig, catch, and explore until sunset.”


– “We stayed up late and played well into midnight out on the shared driveway with the neighbors-games like red light green light. Then there was sitting in the grass looking at the clouds, playing in the ditch, skating on the frozen ditch, swinging from the weeping willow tree, climbing the cheery tree, balancing on the fence, crawling through the hole in the fence, digging through the paper factory bin, looking for four leaf clovers, playing kick the can, hide and seek, British bull dog, dodge ball, chestnut duals, clackers, Halloween, dances, swings, slides, club house, playing store and school.” (

The benefits of natural play are innumerable. Below is the brief list of what natural play areas can do to the sensory system of our children




What are you waiting for just let your children go out and reap the benefits of natural play when there is little bit of nature left. Because there may be a time when you and I would desperately want our children and grandchildren to play outside but nothing natural to enjoy would be left by then.