Children love playing in natural environments, yet they don’t do it nearly enough. Mel Parks looks at how childcarers can make the most of exploring the great outdoors with young children.
“The woodland is a special place. It is detached from the rest of the world and always changing. There is an abundance of things for the children to explore and talk about. They are happy to pick up sticks, dig in the mud, play with leaves, count ladybirds, and watch insects crawl,” observes Heidi Evans, a childminder, early years professional and forest school leader from Purley-on-Thames.
Common childhood experiences, you might think, and yet fewer than 10 per cent of children play in woodlands, countryside and heaths compared to 40 per cent of adults when they were young, according to a 2009 Natural England report. This is despite the growing research showing the considerable health and wellbeing benefits of spending time in natural green spaces.