Nature Play QLD’s mission is to increase the time Queensland kids spend in unstructured play outdoors and in nature. It is founded on the understanding that unstructured, outdoor nature play is fundamental to a full and healthy childhood.
Children and Nature
In order for our children to bond with nature and the earth, they must spend time outside.
A growing body of evidence indicates that for humans to thrive in harmony with nature, we need to understand the importance of integrating it into our lives.
People of all ages who participate in nature-based activities tend to be happier and healthier than those who do not.
The benefits of connecting with nature start with our children. For example, infants and toddlers develop healthy, resilient bodies from time spent exploring hands-on and whole-body with natural materials. They are stimulated cognitively and physically by the sights and sounds in outdoor spaces. They develop social skills and bond with family members through shared experiences in the outdoors.
Outdoor play in school-aged children has been linked to the development of core skills, including problem-solving and reasoning, creativity, curiosity, risk-identification, self-regulation and social and emotional learning.
Children and adolescents with access to nature also tend to enjoy more physical activity. They benefit from reduced rates of obesity and other chronic diseases, including diabetes and heart disease, as well as enhanced emotional well-being and resilience.
Time spent in nature has an important protective role to play in the health and well-being at all ages. From gardening, to cycling, to simply walking outdoors, benefits reported include:
- improved blood pressure, pulse rates and stress hormone levels
- enhanced sense of well-being
- reduced levels of anxiety and depression
Research and references from Connecting with Nature to Care for Ourselves and the Earth: Recommendations for Decision Makers by Nature for All and the children and nature network. https://natureplayqld.org.au/case-studies/connecting-with-nature
Children and Play
Nature Play is a platform for child-led play
‘Child-led’ is a term wide enough to encompass a range of adult-infant play dynamics, from the first steps of ‘unstructured’ play time to ‘uninterrupted’ play. Child-led play is about letting children ‘go’ to do what they need to do to learn and to grow.
In child-led play children take the lead following the play urges genetically coded into their developing bodies and brains. Whether they are deeply engrossed in their own world, or interacting and playing with other children, this type of play is a requirement to unfolding and developing human beings as ‘designed’.
As the adults and guardians of these young ‘learning sponges’, it is our job to support them when required – or requested – and to sit back to watch and wait as they discover, invent and explore.
Written by Clare Caro for KINDLING – The Journal for Steiner Waldorf Early Child Care and Education (Issue 22 Autumn/Winter 2012).
- Spontaneous, open-ended, play in natural surroundings offers unrivalled opportunities for early learners to classify, observe, explore, and interpret the phenomena around them. (Kellert, 2005)
- Through play, in the varied and less structured spaces of the outdoors, children encounter diverse opportunities for decision making that stimulate problem solving and creativity.
- Direct experiences with nature, more commonly and fully provide the spontaneous and unplanned immersion, challenges, and inspirations necessary for maturation and development in children. (Kellert, 2005).
- Opportunities for creative use of loose parts and child-led investigation set the ground work for cognitive processes and support scientific and aesthetic thinking. (Ernst, 2008)
- Playing in nature stimulates creativity and problem-solving skills integral to executive function development which is required for lifelong success. Spending time in nature is essential for cognitive development. Children who play and spend time in nature have increased concentration and cognitive skills, including mitigation of ADHD/ADD symptoms.
From Nature Play is Important for the Cognitive Development of Early Learners
Annie Wallin, February 16, 2017, including all references
Country and Learning
We carry the light in us and shed it onto others by teaching
For Aboriginal peoples, country is much more than a place. Rock, tree, river, hill, animal, human – all were formed of the same substance by the Ancestors who continue to live in land, water, sky. Country is filled with relations speaking language and following Law, no matter whether the shape of that relation is human, rock, crow, wattle. Country is loved, needed, and cared for, and country loves, needs, and cares for her peoples in turn. Country is family, culture, identity. Country is self.
Seeing the Light: Aboriginal Law, Learning and Sustainable Living in Country, by Ambelin Kwaymullina
Nature Play QLD Value Statement
We believe a healthy world comes from a complete and balanced childhood incorporating free outdoor play.
For unstructured outdoor play to become a normal part of every child’s life in Queensland, so they can develop into resilient, healthy and creative people.
To work innovatively and collaboratively to make nature play an integral part of childhood for everyone.
We collaborate with partners to encourage Nature Play communities
Nature play promotes health benefits, including cognitive, social and emotional development, and it builds resilience and creativity as well. Experiences in nature as a child also leads to environmental awareness and stewardship later in life.
Nature Play QLD is a collaborative organisation, working with partner groups to encourage the Queensland community to value nature play, and support families to prioritise it in children’s lives. Our primary role is to advocate the nature play message and to increase access to nature play resources, events and programs for Queenslanders. Check out our past and current partnerships.
Inspired by great minds
Nature Play QLD was made possible through the support of the Queensland Government.
Nature Play QLD is a program of Outdoors Queensland
Meet our team
Meet the passionate people behind Nature Play QLD. If you would like to collaborate with us or are looking for advice on introducing nature play or outdoor learning to your centre or home we would love to hear from you.
Program Manager0488 171 firstname.lastname@example.org
Angela’s extensive experience in local government recreation and sport enabled her to grow her passion for planning, delivering and advocating for better outdoor recreation places, spaces, programs and services. A short stint in Sport and Recreation Qld projected her into the outdoor recreation policy area which greatly assisted in her return and ongoing career in local government. Angela worked for 17 years for Redland City Council in the City Spaces Group until her semi-retirement in 2017. She continued her voluntary work with Nature Play Qld (Nature Play Spaces Program) until 2019 when she returned to full timework to fill the enormous shoes left by Hyahno Moser, Program Manager for Nature Play QLD.
Education Coordinator0438 869 email@example.com
Rebecca is a passionate advocate for nature play and its immense benefits to support holistic development and wellbeing. She is an educator who loves inspiring others; children, families and educators to play and learn with and in nature. Rebecca loves connecting with land and water and all the living things to learn about the world as a co-learner and collaborator with children. She has over 25 years experience teaching in education settings in rural areas, community based and has focused her work in Early Childhood services. She has a Forest School Leader qualification and is actively working in a nature program aligned with the principles of Forest School that delivers child led outdoor curriculum in Playgroup, Preschool and Primary settings. Rebecca has strong values of sustainability and believes we all can become environmental stewards through active citizenship in our communities.
Rebecca has vast experience supporting students and educators to embrace nature pedagogy and implement nature based learning environments in diverse program settings. She is devoted to sharing concepts of embedding nature in all aspects of education practices and teaching.
In her spare time, Rebecca likes to explore all the stunning scenery the hinterland has to offer in South East Queensland.
Education Coordinator - currently on maternity leave, please contact Rebecca Burcheducation@natureplayqld.org.au
Anya moved to Queensland from the UK in September 2015 with the desire to continue to use her knowledge and experience to promote greater opportunities for children to engage in outdoor nature play based learning.
Whilst completing a degree in Primary Education she developed a professional interest in the area of outdoor nature play provision and took her study into outdoor learning further completing her Master in Education. She later spent five years as an Early Years and Primary teacher, while also training as a Level 3 Forest School Leader. Anya has created on-site Forest School areas, coordinated a whole school/ community development towards increasing outdoor nature play learning opportunities and has supported and trained colleagues and parents in the importance of regular nature play opportunities. She has also managed and delivered Forest School programs in and out of term times both in a childcare setting and in local woodlands.
In her spare time Anya is thoroughly enjoying exploring and discovering all the outdoor beauty Queensland has to offer.
Education Team Support0480 285 firstname.lastname@example.org
Developing and delivering Nature Play and Loose Parts programs in school and public parks to 15000 kids per year was part of Rita's work and playground for the last 5 years as co-founder and director of 'Conscious Kids New Zealand - Little Seeds for a Better Future.' Rita Pontes has relocated to Queensland early last year with her family, looking to explore the amazing Australia's outdoors and build on her vision of promoting and facilitating Nature Unstructured Play, where children are given time and space to play as they like, for as long as they like, within a framework of respect for those around them and the environment. Rita is a qualified Graphic Designer and supports the Education Team at Nature Play QLD in many roles, particularly the Bush Kindy Leader Course. Her multi-skill experience has also landed her a job as an educator at Gold Coast Bush Kindy. As a Nature Free Play advocate, she believes that anything taught in an indoor classroom can be taught outdoors, in ways that are more enjoyable for children.
Building cubbies, making flying foxes, swings, building shelters, using tools and planting native trees are just a few activities in Alex‘s day at work.
Alex brown is a qualified and experienced Teacher and Bush Kindy Leader. She is the coordinator of Growing Coastal which is a holistic and inspirational learning program set in the coastal foreshore area of northern NSW. Alex has extensive knowledge on leading teams to support children to play and learn in the natural environment with strong community connections and partnerships. She has a passion for sustainability and supporting children to be independent and confident learners. Alex is part of Nature Play QLD team and facilitates our Bush Kindy Leader workshops alongside Rebecca, Anya and Rita.
Marketing and Communications Manager0480 286 email@example.com
With years of experience in marketing, content creation and videography, Charlee has a passion for storytelling and loves finding unique ways to engage with the community.
She believes that enjoying the great outdoors is a privilege, not only beneficial for the health and education of individuals, but also communities and ultimately our planet. In her spare time she can be found skating, playing roller derby, hiking, and exploring everything our wonderful Queensland has to offer – usually with a camera in hand.
Office Manager0417 494 firstname.lastname@example.org
Hubertien joined the Nature Play QLD team in December 2015. She is trained in accounting and the hospitality industry and until recently, has worked for the state government in her local community.
Her passion for the outdoors is evident in her participation and organisation of trail and mountain races. She has represented Australia on several occasions at the World Mountain Running Championships and loves encouraging people to live life outdoors.