The Role of Nature in Child Development


Nature-based learning plays a vital role in child development, promoting environmental awareness, curiosity, and a love for learning. By engaging with nature, children develop essential physical, social, emotional, and cognitive skills, which contribute to their holistic growth. This article explores the numerous benefits of outdoor play and exploration, and how they contribute to a child’s overall well-being.

Developing a Connection with Nature

Connecting with nature stimulates a child’s curiosity, imagination, and wonder, laying the foundation for a lifelong love of learning. Witnessing the beauty and fragility of nature encourages sustainable practices and environmental awareness, promoting a sense of responsibility and care for the environment from an early age.

Enhancing Physical, Social, and Cognitive Development

Outdoor play enhances a child’s physical abilities, social and emotional development, and cognitive development. Time spent in nature promotes emotional well-being, risk-taking, and resilience, shaping a child’s personality to be strong and confident. Outdoor environments also provide a rich context for language development, creativity, and imagination.

Improving Mental Health and Reducing Stress

Playing outdoors with friends makes children happy and less stressed. Time outdoors is particularly important for children’s mental health, reducing stress and promoting happiness. The Playtime Matters report highlights the importance of outdoor play in child development, emphasizing the need for children to develop healthy, curious, and active relationships with their environment.

Encouraging Exploration and Discovery through Play Equipment

The move towards learning and challenging outdoors has led to a fresh approach in play equipment, with a focus on child-centered exploration and discovery. Suppliers are taking steps to cut environmental impact and promote sustainability, offering expert advice on how to provide environments and play experiences through every area of the EYFS. The Childbase Partnership, for example, spends nearly £450,000 on gardens alone to enhance current resources and develop planting to encourage biodiversity. The focus is on large-scale equipment, such as climbing frames and mini-assault courses, which promote
essential skills such as turn-taking, sharing, co-operating, negotiating, and communication.