Nature Play in Maroondah
What is nature play?
Nature play is when children have the opportunity to enjoy unstructured play activities outside. It gives children the time, space and freedom to explore, discover and find wonder in the natural world as they engage with natural elements such as earth, water and air.
Why spend time in nature?
It’s vital to teach children about the natural world and encourage them to connect with nature every day.
Time spent in nature has benefits for our health and wellbeing and is proven to:
- enhance mindfulness - with an increase in focus.
- increase confidence - through problem solving skills, imaginative play and creativity.
- increase physical strength - including greater core strength, enhanced balance and increased fine motor skills.
- create stronger emotional foundations - with greater impulse control and sensory regulation.
- improve resilience - through awareness of risk, ability to persevere and overcome challenges.
- reduce levels of stress, anxiety and depression.*
*Centre for Ecological Learning Inc.
When people experience and benefit from nature, they are more likely to appreciate and care for it too.
Discover Maroondah’s nature
We have so many great parks, walking trails and bushland areas in Maroondah, including:
For a full list of areas to explore, see the Parks and playgrounds page or Walks and trails page.
How to care for nature
As more children and their families enjoy the outdoors and benefit from being in nature, it’s also important for them to understand how to care for the environment too.
Look after nature as you have fun and explore outside together. If you’re in a public park or reserve, don’t break any branches off living trees, or move big rocks, as these are animal homes too.
You should always respect the area you are visiting and leave the site as you found it.
Sometimes you may want to collect some natural materials to take home to enjoy. Please only take a small amount and only ever collect things found on the ground. Never break, pick or tear off living plants and trees, or take any living creatures back home with you.
There are sensitive areas of bushland in Maroondah that are fenced off from the public. Please allow us to continue to care for these special areas, and do not enter them.
Ways to connect with nature
Nature play activity ideas
Check out this list of activities to inspire your nature play experience:
- Mixing potions in your garden - use herbs, flowers and water. Crush in a mortar and pestle to release the scents. Experiment with different colours and textures.
- Create art on the ground from fallen twigs, leaves and stones.
- Collect fallen leaves and sort into shapes and colours, take them home to make confetti or hole punch and thread.
- Go on a minibeast safari. Carefully look under fallen branches, rocks, on and around tree trunks for insects. Remember to use your eyes and not your fingers. Never trap them. Watch them with a magnifier - describe how they are moving.
- Make nature boats using bark, leaves and twigs. Get a tub of water at home or float them down a creek.
- Be a wildlife detective - who’s been here? Look for animal tunnels, feathers, animal tracks and poo, leaves chewed by insects and listen for animal sounds.
- Roll down a hill or climb and balance on a fallen tree or rocks.
- Make a whistle from a stalk of grass. How else can you make music outside? Rocks, seed pods, sticks and water in bottles.
- Follow an ant trail and see where they are going and what they are doing.
- Press some leaves or flowers between the pages of a book, then when they have dried you can paste them on cards for friends.
- Find a sit spot, be still and notice what is around you. Use a clipboard, paper and pencils to draw what you see or list the noises you hear.
- Make an explorer’s map at the park or in your backyard.
- Plant seeds in old yoghurt containers and watch them grow.
- Discover puddles after it's rained. Try to catch rain on your tongue.
- Grow sunflowers, strawberries or vegetables.
- Take a picnic lunch outside to enjoy in a favourite spot.
- Make up active games such as running, jumping, hopping and move like native animals you know.
- Build a cubby in your backyard using fallen branches and leaves and old pieces of material.
- Make silhouettes, use a spray bottle with water and spray around objects, then remove to see the silhouettes.
- Gather up old pots, add water, dirt and a few bits of nature and make some soup or mud pies.
- Make a crown by weaving grasses and flowers.
- Collect fallen leaves and branches to use as paint brushes.
- Make your own paint, find different coloured dirt and mix with water. Use a paintbrush on paper, a tree or bark and leaves.
- Create a weaving frame using sticks, string, leaves and bark.
- Make a nature dreamcatcher or mobile to hang inside.
- Notice growing flowers. When are they open or closed?
- Talk about the changing seasons and weather.
- Have fun with smartphone/tablet photography. Use ‘slo mo’ for a bird flying or ‘time lapse’ for a snail moving.
- Start a nature journal and draw, write or take photos to capture moments and thoughts while in nature or at the end of your day.
- Endless things to do with sticks. Why not dig in the soil, pretend it’s a wand, build a nest, use wool and make a Ojo de Dios or yarn stick.
- Take a torch out into your backyard at night with an adult and see what nocturnal animals you can see and hear.
Nature treasure hunt
We have created a list of items you can find or create your own! See if you can find:
- a tree that feels smooth
- an ant carrying food
- something swimming in a pond
- clouds that look like animals
- something stinky
- a heart shaped leaf
- seeds from three different plants
- a flower
- something that smells good
- a bird chirping
- a spider’s web
- something round
- a chewed leaf
- a seedpod or nut
- a feather
Sky gazing together - talk about what you see
What do they look like, animals or shapes? Are they high or are they low? Moving fast or moving slow?
Where does it rise and where does it set? Colours, time of day and shadows.
When and where do you see it? Changing shape and phases of the moon.
What's the first star you see in the night sky? Turn off outside lights to see them best. Lie back and see which ones are brightest?
Remember to be super quiet! Watching birds can be relaxing and rewarding. Every day, sometimes unnoticed, birds are part of our lives. We hear them in the morning, occasionally during the day and again in the evening.
Exploring the world of birds you can discover a new language and a new way of looking at nature. Some birds will sound their alarm when they see cats, others will chase smaller birds away and some will be seen building nests. Here are some helpful resources for bird watching:
Geocaching - A fun way to spend time outdoors with family
Geocaching is a treasure hunt that uses an app on your smartphone to locate hidden containers (caches). It's a great outdoor activity for families.
Read more about Geocaching
A little bit of creativity and nature play right here in Victoria. Hunt for painted rocks in parks and playgrounds and/or paint some and hide them for others to find - help spread some joy in our community!
Join the VicRocks community on Facebook
Staying safe while enjoying the outdoors
To ensure you stay safe and enjoy your time outside, a bit of planning can make all the difference to your adventures.
Tips on staying safe
Check the weather forecast and wear suitable clothing and shoes
Consider packing spare items. You may get dirty and in colder weather you want to be comfortable.
Be sun smart
Think UV, not heat! UV rays can't be seen or felt and can damage your skin on cool or cloudy days.
Sun protection is recommended whenever UV levels reach 3 or higher. Check the Bureau of Meteorology’s daily UV Alert or download the SunSmart app to keep track of UV levels.
To be sun smart you should:
- slip on clothing that covers as much skin as possible
- slop on SPF20 or higher, broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen
- slap on a broad-brimmed hat
- seek shade
- slide on sunglasses.
Take water and healthy snacks
Playing is hungry and thirsty work! Make sure you have enough food to keep those tummy rumbles at bay and to stay hydrated in warm weather. Make sure you take any rubbish home with you.
As the weather starts to warm up and we head outdoors, it’s also the time for snakes to emerge from their winter slumber.
Particular care needs to be taken near long grass or hollow logs, near water or near rocks in sunny positions.
Make sure you:
- always be alert and look ahead and where you are stepping
- stick to wide paths and tracks in bush areas and do not walk through long grass
Snakes can hear vibrations and not sounds. Practice stomping really hard as you play outside to warn the snakes you are nearby.
If you happen to come across a snake, don’t panic. Stay still at first and then back away quietly and slowly.
Technology and nature play
Technology is usually seen as the enemy of nature, but perhaps we need to reconsider this view?
Screen technology can support children to interact with and learn about nature. It's about ensuring that children engage in active screen time, rather than passive consumption.
There are apps which allow children to be active and creative in nature; such as making their own story books that include photos, videos and audio. These are much more beneficial than some apps that are repetitive and limiting.
Other apps like Frog ID, Aussie Bird Count, Echidna CSI and iNaturalist encourage children to become active 'Citizen Scientists' by observing and counting species, and then logging the results to help inform the work of Australian scientists.
Technology used in these ways can been seen as a bridge, rather than a barrier to Nature.
Hear Dr Jo Bird discuss technology and nature play:
If you can't view the video above, please use this link: Dr Jo Bird: Technology and Nature Play
It's important for parents to understand technology that children are using to ensure their safety. For more information on children and technology safety, please read the following information:
Free activity ideas
Other Council webpages