Join the Natural Play Project at an upcoming Natural Playdate! Playdates are free, facilitated, natural play experiences for children 3-5 years old with their parent/caregiver. They take place outside and include fun, developmentally appropriate educational activities, and time for natural free play. Each Playdate will be a little different with new activities and changing weather and seasons. Please visit mountainsunschool.org/npp to for more information and to sign up for free Playdates.
What is “Natural Play” and why does it matter? Natural play can take on many forms, but at its core, it is children engaged in self-directed, imaginative play outside in spaces that include elements of the natural world, such as natural terrain, plants, sticks, and other loose parts. A growing body of research indicates the cognitive, emotional, academic, and health benefits of getting children outside for natural play. Unfortunately, many children and their families have limited opportunities to connect with the natural world. According to scientific studies cited by the Natural Learning Initiative, active play outside in natural environments supports creativity and problem solving, enhances cognitive abilities, and improves both social relationships and academic performance.
Playdates are excellent opportunities for families to slow down together and focus on bonding and connecting. When families make time to play together and set aside some of the distractions of the built world it creates space for secure attachments to form. Three key elements of forming secure attachment are: emotional availability, affective sharing, and following the child’s lead (See the article link below for more information). Playing and exploring nature together is a perfect setting to support this process. What does this look like at a Natural Playdate?
Emotional Availability: Leave you cell phone in your pocket and your to-do list in the car. Take this time to be fully present as you enjoy a shared experience with your child.
Affective Sharing: As your child finds natural objects that catch their interest use these opportunities to celebrate together. Share the delight of finding a colorful rock or a bright flower. Enjoy some chlid-like wonder!
Follow the Child’s Lead: The natural world is full of things to explore and children have a natural curiosity–follow your child’s spark of interest and cues. Are they interested in the “story” of the beetle, or more interested in building a fort? Collecting, naming and sorting the colors of the leaves, or looking for worms? Let them lead, then deepen the exploration by asking questions and showing interest.
Playdates are hosted by the Natural Play Project, a collaborative partnership between El Centro, Rise and Shine, the Family Place, Brevard Music Center, and Mountain Sun Community School and is partially funded by United Way of Transylvania County.
Resource for families from the Children & Nature Network: