In the “Exploring nature with children booklet

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Creative play is a great way to engage in the natural world . . . whether it be through visual art, story telling, imaginative adventures, or just getting in and amongst it!

Children use all their senses when they are able to immerse themselves in creative play and exploration in nature. It is the place where they build their sense of wonder and connection with the environment.

Frequent, informal experiences in nature at a young age can develop life-long awareness and sensitivity to the environment.

Children at the award winning Fiordland Kindergarten Nature Discovery Programme get immersed in the environment whatever the weather! Photo: Fiordland Kindergarten Nature Discovery Programme http://fiordlandknaturediscovery.blogspot.co.nz/
Children at the award winning Fiordland Kindergarten Nature Discovery Programme get immersed in the environment whatever the weather!

Art making

Encouraging children to use natural material will focus their attention on its special qualities.

Use imagination…get creative…things don't always need to be bought. Your garden can be a great source of art and craft materials. Leaves, stones, twigs, bamboo and flax make excellent construction materials. Grasses and branches can even be used as paint brushes. Set your children (and yourself) the challenge of only using natural or recycled materials.

Children at the award winning Fiordland Kindergarten Nature Discovery Programme in art making sessions outside. Photo: Fiordland Kindergarten Nature Discovery Programme http://fiordlandknaturediscovery.blogspot.co.nz/
Children at the Fiordland Kindergarten Nature Discovery Programme in art making sessions outside.

Have art making sessions outside…make temporary sculptures, paintings or collage with the materials you find when you're outside exploring together.

Making a stick insect to join the one found in the garden. Photo: Sarah Mankelow.
Making a stick insect to join the one found in the garden. Photo: Sarah Mankelow.

Some ideas

  • Focus on colour - for example - how many leaves can the children find that aren't green? Can they find the colours of the rainbow on your walk through a park together?
  • Create some Land Art using natural materials when out exploring.
  • Create a rainy day recycling box for indoor conservation-themed art. It might include toilet rolls, egg-cartons, bottle tops, feathers, acorns, old magazines, scraps of fabric and some craft essentials like glue, scissors, pipe cleaners, paint etc. Help your child choose a theme for their activity - like underwater life, mini-beasts or forest birds.

Creating wild spaces for play

Land art examples. Photo: Sarah Mankelow.
Land art examples. Photo: Sarah Mankelow.

Remember as a child how much fun it was to play in long grass, climb trees, or make a hut?

Creating wild spaces for play can be as simple as not mowing part of your lawn, or allowing your kids to climb certain trees.

Develop a 'code of conduct' with your children to keep them and your garden safe.

Making huts

Kids love huts! Help your kids make a hut out of prunings from the orchard or grow a 'living' hut. Divaricating native plants such as Corokia, Coprosma or Muehlenbeckia species can be planted and tunnels carefully pruned into them. Or you could try planting manuka or kanuka and weaving them into a hut shape. Willow is popular overseas for making living huts but as most willow species are weeds in New Zealand, if you are using willow, make sure it is from a sterile tree.

Care code for creative play outdoors

While encouraging outdoor play, teach your children to care and respect the environment. Remind them they are playing in the home of Tāne Mahuta - the atua or guardian of the forest and of all plants, birds, invertebrates and other animals that live within it.

Huts at the beach. Photo: Diana Morris.
Huts at the beach. Photo: Diana Morris.

  • Be very gentle if handling live creatures - always return them to where you found them.
  • Avoid damaging living plants.
  • Avoid disturbing nesting birds.
  • If you turn over a rock or a log to see what's underneath, always turn it back.
  • Consider other people's enjoyment of the area.
  • Collect only dead materials for art and craft, and take only what you need.
  • Remember it is illegal to remove any plants, animals, insects, stones from public conservation land.
  • Never drop litter and take your rubbish home.

Toitū te whenua - leave the land undisturbed

Care codes for nature.

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