An extra day to Love Outdoor Nature Play!


Guest post – Mick Conway,
Exploring Nature Play Manager – Play England

The unusually mild February weather and an extra leap year day is a great reason for children to get out and play in nature today – and every day.

Play England Loves Outdoor Play and one way we are showing this in practice is through our Exploring Nature Play project, funded by Natural England’s Access to Nature programme.

Fewer than 25% of children use their local patch of nature compared to over 50% of their parents – we are trying to reverse this trend and would love your help.

What have we been doing so far?

We have been working with three adventure playgrounds in London, North Tyneside and Torbay, along with organisations including the Eden Project to try out simple things that will encourage children to enjoy and learn about nature through play. Over the first ten months of the project, 700 children on the playgrounds have been enjoying all sorts of play in nature:

  • At Somerford Grove in Tottenham, London they have been looking after a colony of rare stag beetles, growing and cooking vegetables, and enjoying the accessible nature trail created by a team of 40 corporate volunteers in just two days.
  • At Shiremoor in North Tyneside, they have hatched and released their own butterflies, helped plant 400 trees donated by the Woodland Trust and helped build a traditional drystone wall that is both a play feature and a wildlife habitat.
  •  At Fort Apache in Torbay, they have been cooking healthy food outdoors on open fires and using a shaving horse (a medieval  woodworking bench that children from six years old expertly use) to make cooking pot stirrers, chair legs and all sorts of useful and playful wooden bits and pieces.

We have also created an online map, where you can search for or add great places to play outdoors near where you live, upload photos and comments, and see what other people have said about them. People have already added over 3,000 local sites to the map.

What are we doing next?

We will be sharing what we have learned about what works on the adventure playgrounds with the other 170 adventure playgrounds across the country. We will be doing this through a regularly updated resources section on our nature play web page, this blog, our social media platforms including Twitter and Facebook, and an online adventurous play forum.

We are also working on the map to make it even easier to use, for example by developing it so you can add a site, comments and photos from your smartphone.

Want to help or find out more?

  • Show you Love Outdoor Nature Play by putting your play project or a good place where children can play in nature on the map – have a look first as it might already be there.
  • Email natureplay@ncb.org.uk to find out how you can get involved.
  • Tell your friends and neighbours about the Love Outdoor Play campaign – they can keep up-to-date by following this blog, our Twitter feed or Facebook page!
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