Exploring and experiencing the potential and challenges presented by the natural world and the four elements is a human behaviour that contributes to our wellbeing, resilience and our survival as a species.
Playing with the elements contributes to children's knowledge and appreciation of the world around them - the joys and the dangers, the strengths and the fragilities of natural organisms and forces.
Nowadays, for a range of complex reasons, many children and young people are impeded from playing in natural environments - this is particularly the case for some disabled children.
The Welsh Government Play Policy (2002) states the need for the provision of play environments that compensate children for the loss of natural spaces in which they can play. Children and young people's play experiences can be extended in a setting or situation where there are experienced adults who understand and facilitate their play.
For the reasons outlined above, there is a move towards the provision of natural play areas where there are such features as tree trunks, grassy mounds, sand, gravel and natural planting. Such play areas are designed to change naturally with the seasons to provide different play experiences throughout the year.
Briefing paper - Looked After Children and the Natural Environment
The Looked After Children and the Natural Environment briefing paper outlines why it is important for looked after children to access outdoor play in nature. It discusses the benefits and rights of children to play, offering ideas on types of outdoor play in nature. It promotes a risk-benefit approach to care, as opposed to a risk-averse approach.
The briefing paper is aimed at foster carers and social care professionals working with looked after children. It has been developed as part of the Fostering Outside Play Project, which aims to improve the physical and mental health outcomes for looked after children through supporting foster carers and social care professionals to provide high-quality, frequent and regular activities and play outside and in the natural environment.
The project is managed by Learning Through Landscapes (LTL). Play Wales and BAAF Cymru (British Association for Adoption and Fostering) are partners in the project. The paper was written by Holly Gordon of BAAF (British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering) for Learning through Landscapes with support from Play Wales.
Casey, T (2007) Environments for Outdoor Play: A Practical Guide to Making Space for Children. London: Sage Publications Ltd
Davis, L., White, A. et al (2009) Nature Play: Maintenance Guide. London: National Children's Bureau
Gill, T. (2011) Sowing the Seeds: Reconnecting London's children with nature. London: Greater London Authority (London Sustainable Development Commission)
Lester, S. and Maudsley, M. (2007) Play, Naturally: A review of children's natural play. London: Play England
Moss, S. (2012) Natural Childhood. National Trust
RSPB Cymru (2012) Every Child Outdoors Wales. RSPB
Shackell, A., Butler, et al (2008) Design for Play: A guide to creating successful play spaces. London: The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)
Sobel, D. (2008) Childhood and Nature: Design Principles for Educators. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers
Sobel, D. (2002) Children's Special Places: Exploring the Role of Forts, Dens and Bush Houses in Middle Childhood. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press
Sobel, D. (1998) Mapmaking with Children: Sense-of-place Eduaction for the Elementary Years. Abingdon: Greenwood Press