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Nature Play

Building a cubby house, climbing a tree, following animal tracks, or baking a mud pie are childhood memories for many of us. Nature play ensures that today’s children can have the same experiences.

Playing outdoors in natural environments provides children with opportunities to use their minds and bodies, freedom and imagination, often without adult intervention. Children experience new ways to connect with each other and with their surroundings. Connecting to nature teaches children to face challenges, solve problems, and build self−esteem.

“Nature play creates resilient, innovative and healthy children who have the self−confidence to create their future. “ Nature Play in NSW – Insights and Recommendations

Nature play describes the unstructured and child-led approach to outdoor play and is practised worldwide. In Forest Schools in the UK, Waldschulen in Germany, Udeskole in Denmark, Wilderness Awareness Schools in the US, or Bush Schools in Australia, children learn holistically through the engagement of hands, heart and mind immersed in nature to develop cognitively, socially and physically.

Nature Play Programs

Centennial Parklands has been running nature play programs since 2012. Our Bush School, school holiday programs like Bushrangers, Camping 101, or school excursions aim to create a close relation between children and the natural environment through free play, storytelling, mapping, tracking, survival skills and bushcraft.

Our programs and activities aim to provide opportunities to members of our community who wish to bring nature back into their lives and minds.

With the development of nature play programs, two outdoor classrooms, and the award-winning nature play space, the Ian Potter Children’s WILD PLAY Garden, Centennial Parklands has been creating outstanding opportunities to connect its community to nature and to create a new generation of nature advocates.
Wilding Nature Play for children and parents presents the findings of an evaluation study initiated by Centennial Parklands to assess impacts from The Ian Potter Children’s WILD PLAY Garden for children and families. Western Sydney University’s research found that outdoor play, physical activity, and connection to the natural world help children to overcome challenges and enjoy the freedom of the outdoors. Children enjoy physical activity generating enthusiasm and creativity.

Nature Play – expansion plans across NSW

Centennial Parklands has connected its community to nature through their programs and spaces for more than a decade now. Through the creation of Greater Sydney Parklands, the education team has been able to extend its programs into Western Sydney Parklands, in Sydney’s West and Callan Park in the Inner West.

The question is how more children in New South Wales can benefit from nature connected programs and play spaces.

In 2020, Centennial Parklands – supported by Centennial Parklands Foundation - facilitated a consultation of key nature play stakeholders in the state. Nature Play for NSW – Insights and Recommendation describes the current situation and gives key recommendations in the focus areas of: Advocacy, Funding and Resources, Support for Educational Settings and Connections with Families and Communities.

The next steps for Nature Play in NSW are to:

  • Create a Steering Committee to drive the development of nature play in NSW
  • Deliver play spaces for nature using the ‘Everyone can play guidelines’
  • Promote best practice nature play in NSW
  • Expand the conversation with key stakeholders, including First Nations organisations and communities.

Read the report in full