Nature-Based Play

In nature children learn to take risks, overcome fears, make new friends, regulate emotions and create imaginary worlds.”Angela Hanscom, author of Balanced and Barefoot

Nature provides the most complete sensory-rich world where imagination and development are activated through free-play.  Something interesting happens when loud, rowdy, boisterous children play in nature – they become quiet. Their observational skills kick in and the smallest happenings in nature become their study. Bugs, knobby branches, ant hills, shape of a passing cloud, exposed gnarly tree roots, weirdly-shaped boulders all are the subject of keen interest. The texture of a tree trunk, newly formed mud puddles, a soft wind, a bird chirping, the crunching noise of fallen leaves underfoot, and the warmth of the sun all provide sensory input to the body. 

Childhood has moved indoors. Children are playing far less per day than children were twenty or thirty years ago and the resulting developmental change in behavior is statistically significant. 

Playing outdoors, using the full body and engaging the core all work to calm energy and foster self-regulation. There are even studies showing that playing outdoors can help to strengthen the immune system. 

We provide a wide area to roam and play as independently as possible. We notice children set their own limits. Risk-taking boosts children’s self-confidence. When children assess risks for themselves, they are employing emotional self-regulation skills like patience, perseverance, and overcoming fear. 

Children at Brooklyn Sandbox spend a school day each week outdoors in all weather.  Prospect Park and the 6/15 Green Community Garden next door are our nature classrooms.  

We also utilize the garden to grow our very own herbs, vegetables, tea leaves and hopefully, berries.

While we follow National Weather Service guidelines in our decision to play outdoors, it is the outdoor gear children wear that that drives our suitability for all weather play.  Rain, snow, and cold temperatures are no match for children outfitted with warm water-proof gloves and boots, scarves and warm hats.  

Nature provides a unique sense of wonder that allows a child to engage more of their brain and body than any indoor, over-stimulating artificial environment. 

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