In the face of a noticeable decline in outdoor play and the increasing dominance of screen time in children’s lives, schools are recognising the need to counterbalance this trend. Amidst the pressures of curriculum, the opportunity for quality outdoor time is often limited. However, schools are eager to maximise their outdoor time by seeking opportunities that not only provide a break from screens but also contribute significantly to their students’ learning and development. Some schools are increasingly recognising the benefits of nature play experiences to their educational outcomes.

Three children interacting with a robust wooden playground timber tangle structure.
Purple Oaks Academy

Our founder, Joe Cooper, explains that when children have the opportunity to have playful experiences within the natural environment, it enables them to connect with the natural world around them.

Nature play benefits not just their emotional and psychological development, but also significantly contributes to their educational growth. It provides opportunities for developing Characteristics of Effective Learning and has significant benefits for pupils across everything from behaviour to attainment. It supports the kinaesthetic learning style and helps develop curiosity.

The Play Instinct & The Natural Instinct

Nature play environments satisfy two powerful childhood drives, which published play expert, Martin Maudsley, describes as the ‘Play Instinct’ and the ‘Nature Instinct’”.

The Play Instinct – Play can be seen as an ‘instinct’, comparable to other biological drives that have evolved to maintain our survival. All children have an inborn desire to play – it’s in their nature. Through their drive to play children explore and interact with the physical world. Natural environments and playgrounds are particularly attractive and satisfying to children as they meet their playful needs and desires and inspire new behaviours.

The Nature Instinct (biophilia) – can be interpreted as an evolutionary connection with nature. Alongside their innate drive to play, children have an instinctive desire to contact and connect with the natural world. This nature attraction seems particularly strong in young children – as indicated by their enduring fascination with stories, toys and games based on wild animals and plants.

Using Nature Play to Enhance Learning Experiences

More and more, schools agree with the idea that including nature play areas is key to encouraging active learning and increasing awareness and appreciation for nature.

TouchWood has worked with many schools including Stanley Green Infant Academy, Hannah More School, Purple Oaks Academy, Ringwood School and many more.

A key part of our approach is the Play Quality Assessment, a complimentary service we offer to all schools. This assessment allows us to gain an understanding of the specific needs of each school and aspirations for their dream playground.

Want to know more? Find out how TouchWood can support your school to enhance the student experience with a unique natural playground.