The 5 Big Ideas: Natural Play


Natural Play is perhaps the most basic and most profound of the 5 Big Ideas

Because it is what the children bring to The Little School themselves.  

It is also one of the hardest to define.

But why?

Because it is born in the moment. Because it leaps forth from the children. Because it involves the entire developing child. Because it is innate to humans (in fact it is innate to all mammals). Because it can be different in every moment of the day.

But what is play? 

People always want to begin by defining play, but playworker and play theorist Gordon Sturrock says,

“Trying to define play is like trying to define love.

You can’t do it. It’s too big for that.”

(Wilson, Penny: Playwork Primer, 2010)

Thus, we let the children define the space, and time, and the moments that we set specifically for play.

We let children define Play.

We let children define Play.

We let children define Play

And we in turn facilitate play.

We…provide a play environment in which children will laugh and cry; where they can explore and experiment; where they can create and destroy; where they can achieve; where they can feel excited and elated; where they may sometimes be bored and frustrated, and may sometimes hurt themselves; where they can get help, support, and encouragement from others when they require it; where they can grow to be independent and self-reliant; where they can learn—in the widest possible sense—about themselves, about others, and about the world. (Wilson)

But Why Natural Play? Why play in nature?


Contact with the natural world can significantly reduce symptoms of attention deficit disorder in children as young as five years old (Kuo and Taylor, 2004)


Access to green spaces for play, and even a view of green settings, enhances peace, self-control and self-discipline within inner city youth, and particularly in girls (Taylor, Kuo and Sullivan, 2001)


Nature is important to children’s development in every major way—intellectually, emotionally, socially, spiritually and physically (Kellert, 2005)


Play in nature is especially important for developing capacities for creativity, problem solving, and intellectual development.(Kellert, 2005)


Children will be smarter, better able to get along with others, healthier and happier when they have regular opportunities for free and unstructured play in the out-of-doors (Burdette and Whitaker, 2005)


Simply put, Natural Play is a Big Idea

because it is best practice.


Let’s get these kids out in nature to play!