Natural Play is becoming more popular than ever!
Studies by child psychologists and child development specialists have made us parents more knowledgeable about the importance of children’s play time and the benefits of pretend play. We have come to understand that it is not all leisure time but that in fact our little ones are processing information, learning, and developing new skills whilst playing.
In this path called parenthood, which we walk along side our children, we continue to learn and reevaluate our notions of life and the world that surrounds us. With the increase of our environmental awareness in the past decades many parents have become more conscious regarding their consumer choices, more mindful when it comes to purchasing children’s products, on how often they expose their kids to nature, and overall living more responsibly as a means to ensure that children can inherit a more natural and chemical-free world. Additionally, several psychologists and child development specialists have been advocating more the return of ‘natural play’ and ‘natural play toys’ as it leaves more room for the imagination than the ultra complex and often sophisticated electronic toys.
Children’s natural play areas have become increasingly more popular in some cultures than others. The design of these playgrounds are more integrated into nature and often use the local landscape as part of the play area. In Europe these can be found next to hiking trails or in major urban parks. In Switzerland the natural aspect of playgrounds and how they are integrated into the landscape or nature seams to be the norm in design.
Natural play toys have also increased in popularity specially amongst babies and toddlers. These toys explore the tactile features of wood, cloth, metal and yarn, and a greater variety of these toys can now be found easier in the market.
If we think of our childhood, the most interesting toys and play required us to be imaginative. Playing in nature is often more fun than playing in the park climbing frames and digging in sand pits. Children love to imagine and create. It’s an opportunity to mimic the world that surrounds them, express their feelings, and process what they learn. Natural play toys give the opportunity to children to paint in the blank canvas of their imaginative minds whatever they want whilst more complex toys set the stage or direction for the play. It is like coloring a book with images. Surely this is fun, but drawing on a blank piece of paper lets their imagination flow and that is even more fun. For babies and toddlers natural play toys stimulate their senses by introducing them to a wide range of sensorial experiences as they learn the differences between wood, cotton, wool, metal and materials other than plastic. Children use their imagination and sensorial abilities to discover the world around them, this is only natural. It is the way they experience, learn, and grow.
- Flavia Augusta de Almeida