As Robin Moore notes, what children really need for play is “unused space and loose parts” (Moore and Cooper-Marcus 2008). If given the opportunity, children will use whatever they find in nature as play materials. Leaves, rocks, sand, water, branches, and flowers are all used to construct and transform an ordinary space into a magical one through imaginative play - J. Heerwagen
Natural spaces support imaginative play more effectively than most built structures because their features are readily transformed into different contexts. In a study of children’s play in Seattle, Kirkby (1989) found that the most popular place on an elementary school yard was a cluster of shrubs that children could transform into a house or a spaceship, using flowers and twigs as play artefacts.
Natural outdoor spaces appeal to children because they are transformable and have multiple uses. Transformability and multi-use are in fact much discussed in the design world, but seldom implemented. It is as simple as incorporating natural and stimulating elements in home design.
Skills children can obtain from natural exploration
Nature provides both the platform and the objects for play (Kahn and Kellert 2002). Among the numerous benefits for our children we encounter that nature encourages exploration and building among older children which aids:
- Orientation and way-finding
- Group decision-making
- Knowledge of how to respond to changing contexts
- Improved problem-solving
- Stimulates creativity
Among younger children, small-scale natural environments with props (flowers, stones, sticks, water) stimulate imaginative play which is considered a cornerstone of social and cognitive development.
For the thrive and development of our kids, we should be including more nature inspired environments in our spaces. This will allow us to extend children's interaction with this platform of benefits.
Find inspiration and design natural looking spaces with our natural decor products.
Restorative Commons, USDA, https://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/pubs/gtr/gtr_nrs-p-39r.pdf