Confession time: I rarely take my kids to the playground.
By rarely, I mean I actually cannot remember the last time we went right now. And no, we don’t have a shortage of parks around us, we actually have a lot. There is a really great playground that is only a 2 minute walk away from our house. But we hardly ever go. Sometimes I think about it and consider that we should really go more, I mean you’re supposed to take your kids to the playground right? That’s what ‘good’ mums do! But honestly, I find it quite boring. eek! And indoor play centres? I will be happy to never have to go to another one of them in my life. Have I failed playground duty over here?
Thankfully, I was recently reassured by my 6 year old that I have not. After one of our days spent playing outside in nature with friends at a nearby creek she said to me ‘The creek is kind of like a big park, except without stuff to play on, and you get to play on whatever you want instead, and climb things and do whatever you want, it’s way more fun’. And I thought to myself, how true that is! Playing in natural places must be much more interesting than at an unchanging playground with the standard equipment. No wonder I find playgrounds boring these days, they are not the same as when I was young. You can’t even have a regular see-saw because it’s too ‘dangerous’. But outside, in nature, there is a freedom that is hard to replicate.
Children can take risks, find out what their bodies are capable of, and practice problem solving.
I see so much more creativity and imaginative play when we play in nature. Nature is the ultimate open-ended material. Sticks become wands and rocks become mountains.
Even as an adult you may notice how much clearer and rejuvenated you feel after some time outside, more able to concentrate.
Outside you have endless space, and a chance to be independent.
And by getting to know and appreciate nature, you’re more likely to grow up to be an adult who wants to take care of it.
Time in nature is good for everyone. But time in nature for children is vital. Children need to get dirty, run freely, catch bugs, climb trees, roll in the grass, and feel the fresh air and sunshine on their faces.
Time at the playground? Well that’s fun too. But not absolutely necessary. Children are spending more and more time indoors these days, we just need to get them outside. And you can do that anywhere. You don’t need fancy playgrounds and the latest and greatest equipment. Children have fantastic imaginations and can make their own fun wherever they are. Some trees, grass, sand, or water is truly enough.
I’m grateful now that instead of the playground we spend much more time out in nature. My kids see how important, beautiful, fun, magical, interesting, and inspiring our natural world is. They ask often to go play at the creek or beach, and rarely ask to go to a playground.
Give me nature over a playground any day.