nature play takes off

Friday, 28 February 2014

"...and above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you. 
Because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. 
Those who don't believe in magic will never find it. "
Roald Dahl

Nature Play seriously exploded in Australia this week with Richard Louv's series of talks around the country, the launch of Nature Play SA, Nature Play Qld and a heap of mainstream media coverage on the topic (check out The Project, ABC, and The Advertiser to name a few). 

So what is this nature play biz all about?

In a nut-shell, nature play = unstructured play outdoors in nature:
  • research shows nature is vital for children's intellectual, emotional, social, physical and spiritual health and development.
  • in the space of a generation, children in the developed world are spending markedly less time outdoors (attributed to a range of factors including increased screen-time, risk-adverse societies, urbanisation and less time for unstructured play).
  • today's more sedentary and technology-dominated lifestyles are occurring in conjunction with rises in childhood obesity, depression and attention disorders.
  • "nature-deficit disorder" is a metaphor coined by Louv to explain the correlation between increases in social, mental and physical health problems, and less time spent in nature.
  • globally, communities and individuals are rethinking the way they live, with campaigns and initiatives that promote and implement nature play principles taking off.   
my daughter getting a nature play fix in Mt Buller

I attended both Louv's Adelaide talk and a recent screening of nature-play movie Project Wild Thing and it struck me how much people are identifying with this. Both events were sell-outs - 400 people at Louv's talk and 300 at Project Wild Thing - and the rooms were buzzing with people from education, recreation, environment, architecture, planning, landscaping and government sectors (let me know if I've missed you!). 

Both events were thought-provoking and inspiring, pitched with a refreshing mix of concern, optimism and wit. Louv's talk, like his writing style, was totally engaging as he eloquently and creatively freestyled the whole talk. He was an energetic and upbeat story-teller who spoke to the heart and common sense. 

On the buzz nature play is creating, Louv asked the audience why is it that this topic is connecting with so many people?

I know this nature play space has captured me and my own reasons are multi-fold: the obvious one is I'm a parent and I want to provide the best I can for my kids. I instinctively know its right for them to regularly experience playing outdoors in nature, and I absolutely want to help facilitate that (especially given my 5 year old would  happily watch tv all day given the opportunity).

But it also goes further than that for me. The way I see it:
  • It's just as much about me needing more nature play in my own life - I need to reconnect after a few pretty manic years of raising a young family, working and having little time to myself.  
  • It instantly connects me with some of my favourite memories of childhood and provides the opportunity to share stories and relive those times with my kids and others.
  • My kids give me the opportunity to see life through a different lens -  it's so easy to get caught up in the craziness of modern living but if I can find ways to slow down and be properly present with them, magic can truly happen.  
yep, mum needs nature too

Over to you! What's your take on nature-deficit disorder and nature play? Does it strike a chord with you and if so, why? Please share your comments below.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts!


  1. Oh Claire, I totally loved reading this. I have just finished a subject at uni called 'Developing a Play Curriculum' which they have just made a compulsory subject for the Primary strand. Very interesting and nature and outdoor play was just one type of play that was discussed. So much of their learning can be achieved through play and it has certainly changed my views on teaching and how I would set up my classroom.

  2. Haha Oktavia Octopus was an alias for an English assignment, just worked out how to change it hopefully.

  3. Hi Vanessa! Love the Oktavia name ha ha. That subject sounds really interesting! Nice to hear its influenced your thinking, so many possibilities! M. used to say she doesn't learn at school, she just plays (like duh Mum) - perfect!