Nature Play and Sensory Exploration go Hand in Hand


There are a number of fantastic benefits to nature play. It supports sustainable and ethical practices, allows children to explore the world around them, encourages environmental consciousness, and can be simple and (usually) free. There are many ways to engage children in nature play, and you'll often find, along with many great benefits, that it supports children’s sensory exploration and development. As they explore the environment and natural materials, they engage their senses.


The best way to engage in nature play is to go out into nature. Some of the best experiences for children are simple. By walking, watching, and engaging with the natural environment, children are developing their understanding of the world. They are seeing, smelling, and feeling the world around them, while having fun and exploring. A nature walk is a simple, effective way to engage children in nature play, and just by incorporating small, simple changes, the possibilities and direction of play are endless. It’s also a great way to demonstrate how to care for the natural environment, by picking up rubbish, and taking care not to impact the area you explore. Children learn by repetition, so the more you explore and model this behaviour, the more likely children are to consciously take care of their environment. It’s good to remember, and model, that there are some environments in which collecting or taking materials is not the best idea, whether this is due to maintaining the environment or respecting the values of the Traditional Owners of the land. Make sure to take this into account. Remember, play and exploration works best when it’s child-led, so take the time to embrace and experience the parts of nature children are most drawn to, and let it guide future play ideas.

Activities that support exploring the natural environment:

Transient Nature Art

Nature Walk

Nature Sketching


Caring for the environment is a key aspect in environmental understanding and sustainability. There are many ways to introduce this to children. It starts with modelling. Children learn by watching and mimicking adults. By modelling behaviour, parents and caregivers can show children how to care for the environment, and how to approach the use of certain materials. By creating art and crafts with natural materials, children are engaging their senses and looking at nature in diverse ways. By using recyclable materials for play, children are expanding their knowledge and understanding of the world and how materials can be used.

Activities that use recycled and natural materials:

DIY Rattle

Junk Sculpture

Junk Music Makers


There are many different aspects of our environment that children can explore. Understanding how things work is an important part of play, learning, and development. There are many types of play that support children’s investigation of the natural world from water play to weather experiments. These types of play activities not only allow children to discover how things work, but it also supports children's connection to the natural world.

Here are some great activity ideas that support investigating how things work in the natural environment:

Float or Sink

DIY Seedling Pots

Storm in a Jar


Nature play can have a number of different purposes and intentions. Nature-inspired activities are a wonderful way to introduce topics, talk about the natural environment, capture ideas and memories from exploration adventures, or consolidate stories and books shared together. Not all nature play must take place in nature. Painting nature-inspired artworks encourage thinking about various aspects of the environment and supports exploring nature in accessible ways such as looking out the window, in books, picture, museums, or movies. Crafting nature-inspired items such as flowers, trees and birds encourage critical thinking about the various parts and aspects of the natural environment. Nature-inspired sensory experiences can support understanding of nature, how to treat it, and fosters a better understanding of the world.

Here are some nature-inspired activity ideas:

How the Birds Got their Feather

Animal Tracks Aboriginal Art Symbols

Little Green Frog Pond


Remember, play is all about exploration, experiences, and enjoyment. Not every experience needs to be a set task or activity. Our natural world and the environment offer a number of amazing avenues for exploration!

So go explore!


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