Nature Play and Learning

A lot of visitors to this blog are looking for the posts about children and nature. Here’s the motley collection that I’ve written over the years.

A quick overview can be found at this post

All I want for my natural Christmas is

Lots of nature’s treasures!

Rocks and Stones

10 Rock, Pebbles and Stone Play Ideas

Just the ticket for any time of year.

10 Ideas for for Exploring Boulders

Big immoveable rocks provide a context for philosophy.


A multitude of creative uses

Weathering and Cracks

Looking at earth processes taking place all around us

Reflections on rock collections

Everybody needs a rock

Still on Stones

More ideas, especially art ones for using stones

Sea Glass

Collecting and admiring the beauty of litter

Stones at Cowgate U5 Centre

wherever you look, there’s stones to be seen

Geology at The Coombes School

An amazing geology trail. The potential is mind-boggling

Challenging Myths and Misconceptions about Sand Play

Ways over overcoming issues around sand play outside

A tyre sandpit for playgrounds

A budget approach to creating any size of a sandpit that works in schools where digging up the tarmac is not possible

10 Ideas for Mud Play

Just a wee contribution to International Mud Day 29th June

The Stone Stacks of Aberdeen

The art of rock balancing – suitable for all ages

White Line Pebble Maths

The brilliant dance of potential when nature is used to explore maths and art concepts. Just sit down and play! Perfect for the beach or sand pit.

Dry Creeks and Streams

Great examples of dry creeks and practical advice from Australia

10+ Ideas for Using Story Stones

Story stones are one of the most versatile creative literacy resources. Time to create some and get those stories flowing! Great for writing as well as talking and listening.

Sticks and wood

Almost all my maths posts involve using sticks. So hop over for a quick look.

Sticks in Schools

A sticky subject about a versatile resource!

Making Skeletons

Using sticks to create the human body outside!

Stump holes for play

Nature’s pockets

The Beauty of Bamboo

Looking at this versatile product and what can be made from it.

Wooden Logs and Stumps in Schools

Great big loose parts for great big play experiences

10 Little Stick Activities

Exactly that!

Tree Trunk Holes

Have you got any of these wonderful play features in your neck of the woods?


Do you have a poisonous plant in your school garden?

The answer is likely to be “yes” and everyone is just fine

Laminated Leaf Hunt

looking for and matching leaves outside.

Nature Detectives

How to keep your secret messages secret outside!

Exploding Leaves

Nature jigsaw and a lovely art activity.

The Art of Plant Study

Creating plant diagrams from loose parts and natural materials

Plant ID in a Parallel Universe

Using photo booth to create alien plants from common local ones

A Crocus Labyrinth

Reflections on flowers and the humble crocus

The Pansy Project

One pansy. One play. One photo. One act of homophobic or transphobic abuse is quietly acknowledged. Please support this guerrilla gardening arts project by Paul Harfleet.

DIY Clipboard Flower Press

Big or small, you can now press plants easily and quickly when out and about.

Repurpose School Books into Seed Packets

Start collecting seeds in these DIY packets. Create a seed exchange with local schools.

Dandelion Play 10 Ideas

Games, recipes, activities and challenges galore!

10 Maths Challenges that use Cones

A free and found natural resource with plenty of maths potential

Masking Tape Shape Explorations

An nature-art approach to learning about and exploring the properties of 2D shapes

The Soapwort Experiment

Using a natural soap for hand washing – easy to grow and use.

Foraging for Fruit

A way to develop a life long interest in gardening!

2D shape art with leaves

A brilliant blend of art, maths and science using the colour and shape of leaves as a starting point


Creating Bird Friendly Schools and Nurseries

Top tips from RSPB Officer, Claire Marsden

A Bird Feeding Garden

A natural alternative to traditional hangers and bird feeders with curriculum ideas included. A must read.


Lots of uses and suggestions for activities for all ages

Ducks at The Coombes School

No it’s not quackers! It’s a great idea!

Urban Tracking

Heads down and walk through the town to see the history of activity

Making Spider Webs Outside

Using ropes, ribbons and enthusiasm

Bringing beavers back to Scotland

Finding out about beavers moving in

Woozy Wasps

A few stinging comments about children, wasps and bees

Red Squirrels

The need for looking after these native mammals

Squirrels and birds

Squirrel proof bird feeders

Seafood Investigations

Finding out about seafood through exploring the leftovers! Not as gross as it sounds!

Minibeast Hotels and Other Residences

Exploring a variety of man-made minibeast dwellings. Upcycle, recycle, be artistic and creative and enjoy seeing the wildlife move in.

Minibeast Habitats

A selection of very simple and doable ideas for making your grounds more welcoming for our little creatures.

Shells- 10 Ideas

It’s surprisingly hard to find lots of ideas about using shells – I hope you enjoy this selection. I think it belongs in this category…


10 Ideas for Rainy Days

Lots of wet weather challenges and exploratory activities.

A Portable Water Wall

When older children made one for the nursery and P1 classes

Water Play with Blue Tarp and Tyres

Big water experience for all ages

Water Play with a Tarp

Ditch the parachute and balls for this challenging alternative

Transparent Tarp

A wonderful resource – a must for any pre-school or school

Guttering in Pre-school

An essential resource for water and other big play experiences

10 Puddle Play Investigations

Lots of lovely ways to learn around and about puddles

Rainy Day Rubbings

Exploring pattern outside

Winter Activities

Snow of Wonder

An arty activity in the snow

Winter Bites with its Teeth

Lots more snowy activities

A Christmas Tree Enterprise

What to do with non-native sitka saplings

Star Parties

Star gazing events for schools and clubs

Frozen Thoughts on Ice

Just a few musings rather than specific activities

Frozen Tree Decorations

And it’s not even Christmas. This works well throughout winter.

Snow Stencils … and Blood!

Stencils, sprays and syringes and using them outside.

Frode Svane – Adventure play in snow

Inspiration from Norway

New Year – New Perceptions

Using a camera to view the world differently

Snow Fun 15+ Ideas

Several of my favourite activities, all in the one place!

Shadow Play

All year round activites for exploring properties of shadows

Shadow Explorations with an iPad

Photo Booth provides an alternative way of investigating an capturing shadows

Open Ended Props in the Snow

A few simple resources for developing imaginative play


The story of the holly, the pine and the robin. A little Christmas tale to warm your heart.

Autumn Activities

Leaf Multiplication

Learn tables naturally with leaves

Leaf Art

Inspiration for leaf art from Alan Kain’s Go2Play session

Games and Activities with Conkers

How to collect and prepare conkers. Some games to play with conkers (Buckeyes)


An essential outdoor resource

Autumn Wires Featuring Berries

An engaging activity collecting berries and autumn fruits

Death, decay and new life

Autumn and dealing with death

The Good, the Bad and the Fungi

Mushrooms in schools are a lot of fun

Developing Thinking Skills with Leaves

Creative thoughts about leaves

A Very Berry Harvest

An autumnal harvest focus to looking at berries

Making Rose-hip Syrup

A war time solution to avoiding scurvy!

Hawthorn fruit leather

A tasty autumnal snack and great source of vitamin C

The Black Spot – Pirate Maths Outdoors

Shiver me timbers! A landlubbing activity looking at sycamore leaves for work on numbers

Autumn Memory Mobile

A simple follow-up activity to help children remember an outdoor experience or walk and to celebrate autumn

Leaf roses

The art of folding, rolling and wrapping leaves into flowers of all shapes and sizes

2D shape art with leaves

A brilliant blend of art, maths and science using the colour and shape of leaves as a starting point

Spring Activities

Nettle Soup

A belated Earth Day activity

Garlic mustard pesto

Simple recipe for using garlic mustard to create a zingy pesto!


How to make the perfect Pace Egg

The Snowdrop Story

Why snowdrops show that spring is coming

The Daffodil Principle

An Earth Day story

A Crocus Labyrinth

Reflections on flowers and the humble crocus

Fairy Gardens and Literacy

A super context for fantasy small-world play outside. It’s been an ongoing project in Westpark nursery.

Play and Learning in Nature

What do you seek in a wood for play?

Ideas about the unique nature of a woodland which gives it high play potential?

If you go down to the woods today

Nature Nurture Project, Camphill Aberdeen

Nature Nurture

A free play project for vulnerable children

Mud Pies

Family fun in the woods with lots of pre-school children

Woods for Learning at St Mungo

Super example of a woodland developed by a school in partnership with rangers

Czech Pre-schools – A Forest Project for All

First of three post about outdoor activities in CZ nurseries

Forest school

A couple of clips

A Forest Kindergarten Session

An afternoon spent with St Paul’s nursery.

A Swedish Forskola

A photofest of ideas from a Swedish pre-school’s outdoor space

A Swedish Skogsmulle Session

An account of a morning on a Mulle Walk!

The Scottish Skogsmulle Sessions

What happened in Scotland when the children met Skogsmulle

The Kate Greenaway Nursery

A special place for special people. Wonderful natural outdoor space for little children

Wild about this Space

This is where you’ll find me on Fridays


A Swedish outdoor pre-school

Waldkindergarten – Forest Kindergarten in Germany

Find out more about Germany’s approach to outdoor nurseries

Free Play Adventures at Broxburn OOSC

Great fun in the woods! A fantastic set up for children

The Art of Woodland Play

When public art and play features come together on an accessible woodland walk. Great ideas for transferring to other places such as school grounds

The Urban Beach Visit

Finding nature in the heart of the granite city. In the middle of winter. Amazing and inspiring.

The Clootie Tree

A positive, peaceful tradition which can be established in a peace garden or other special place.

Rio Tinto Naturescape

A specially designed free play space in the bush – in the heart of Perth, Western Australia

General Nature Commentary

Nature Design Principles

Using these seven themes advocated by David Sobel to plan and develop outdoor learning and play opportunities

Children who Swear by Nature

ways of engaging children when studying plants

A controversial week

A child in a tree

Celebrating children and trees

A few reflective thoughts and photos

Where would you rather be?

A wonderful setting for a training event outdoors.

An 80-year old Nature Diary

Would you be up for doing this as part of your teacher training?

An Unofficial Nature Play Space

the real play park around a play park

The Squelch Factor: Mud

In celebration of International Mud Day

This place still rocks

A childhood memory re-lived

Let’s go fly a kite

Kite flying with my son

Leave No Trace Fires

A sustainable way of having an outdoor fire

Have you got Wild Weather?

Super new book by Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield full of activities for all different sorts of weather

Celebrate the Wonder of Nature with a Byrd Baylor Book

Using books as a springboard into learning outside.

An Outdoor Memory Game

A good way to introduce or revise the concept of pairs

The most recent Nature Play and Learning blog posts are below

2D Shape Art with Leaves

3 December 2017
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Check out the CZ leaf maths

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Leaf roses

28 October 2017
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Fold, roll and wrap your leaves today

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Garlic Mustard Pesto

8 June 2017
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Simple recipe from a common weed

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10+ Useful Fiction Books to Support Nature Play and Transition

18 February 2017
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Love books, love nature play…

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Outdoor Nurseries, Forest and Nature Kindergartens in Scotland

13 February 2017
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A list of Scottish pre-school establishments

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The Soapwort Experiment

27 October 2016
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Natural soap – a “handy” thing!

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Masking Tape Shape Explorations

15 October 2016
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An arty approach to investigating shape

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Shells – 10 ideas

4 June 2016
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To find a seashell is to discover a world of imagination

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Rainbow Potions

23 May 2016
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Experiments never fail

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10 Maths Challenges that use Cones

12 May 2016
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What would you do with a cone?

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Dandelion Play – 10 Ideas

8 May 2016

Recipes, games, challenges galore!

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8 Easy Minibeast Habitats Young Children Can Make

28 April 2016
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Giving little creatures a home!

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We’re Going on a Bug Hunt – Minibeast Magic

23 April 2016
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Top tips for bug hunting

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Sobel’s Nature Design Principles in Action

25 January 2016
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Time to observe your children at play

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The Bird Blog Collection

16 January 2016
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Useful for any bird project.

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A Fantasy Nature Character for Scotland – Can You Help?

6 January 2016
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Happy New Year Everyone I’m opening 2016 with a request for help from any Scottish teacher, early years practitioner, support assistant or adult who works with children. Back in August 2015 there was a Skogsmulle Awareness Conference. This is the next step, building on the thoughts and opinions of the participants – to begin to […]

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A Visit to Bennachie

11 December 2015
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I recently accompanied my daughter’s Primary 2/3 class on a trip to Bennachie, a Forestry Commission Scotland forest just outside Inverurie. It was such a rewarding experience to see how much the children enjoyed themselves and to hear comments like “That was the best day ever” on our journey back to the school. The trip […]

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Dunblane Nature Kindergarten – A transformation from traditional to nature-based practice

20 November 2015
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Fantastic example of positive impact of nature-based practice.

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Hawthorn Fruit Leather

27 September 2015
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A yummy treat for everyone

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Feathers – 10 Ideas

16 September 2015

Coloured feathers, wild bird feathers, tickly feathers galore!

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10+ Ideas for Using Story Stones

12 September 2015
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A creative outdoor resource

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Children in Wild Nature – A Practical Guide to Nature-Based Practice

4 August 2015
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Children in Wild Nature  is a practical guide to taking children beyond the walls of the traditional outdoor space and into local greenspace. The author is Niki Buchan, who blogs at Precious Childhood. She is a well-known and highly respected trainer who has been based in Australia since 2011 and currently works for Inspired EC […]

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10 Ideas for Exploring Big Boulders

7 July 2015
The star

A much-loved feature by children of all ages

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DIY Clipboard Flower Press

14 May 2015
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I have never been a big fan of the commercial flower presses. They are fiddly to use, a fixed shape and usually too small at that. Normally I just press flowers between by inserting them between kitchen roll and sticking them inside a big heavy book. This is fine at home, but when out and […]

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Rio Tinto Naturescape

30 April 2015
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Whilst in Western Australia I had the privilege of meeting Alec Duncan, of Child’s Play Music. We met in one of Alec’s favourite places: Naturescape in Perth. In the words of the website, “…it is a place for children to connect with nature and learn to appreciate the unique Western Australian environment. It is a place to explore, […]

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Dry Creeks and Streams

25 April 2015
School Grounds Stones

Dry streams provide inspiration for developing an outdoor learning space.

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Table Top Provocations

16 March 2015
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As I travel through Australia, I’m getting the opportunity to meet and interact with many fantastic early years educators. This is such a privilege. At Penguin in Tasmania, the ECET organisers provided some table top provocations which left me inspired and impressed. Because I’m so focused on the outdoors I rarely consider what the indoor […]

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The Douglas Fir Tree and the Mice

18 January 2015
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Today I was walking in a local woodland when I came across a magnificent Douglas Fir tree. These trees are not native to the UK but the West Coast of  North America, where they have been known to grow to over 85 metres high. The Douglas Fir, as it is commonly known, is named in honour […]

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25 November 2014
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Nine years ago I planted a holly tree in front of my house. It has grown slowly but steadily and now stands at about 2m tall. Last winter I was delighted to discover that it was a female tree. There were three berries on it. This did surprise me because there are no holly trees that […]

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Autumn Memory Mobile

12 October 2014

Recently I was visiting the The Lost Gardens of Heligan. In the entrance, was the beautiful hanging decoration. Upon closer inspection, it contained a range of autumn finds:

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Vestige – The Mirror People

17 September 2014
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The Mirror People

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A Simple Shack

10 September 2014
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Recently I came across a series of simple shacks being built for an event. They were created from locally cut saplings in the village of Nida in Lithuania. I really liked the simplicity of the construction and felt it could be a useful project for older children who want to undertake a practical design project.

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White Line Pebble Maths

12 July 2014
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It’s hard not to be inspired by pebbles. You pick them up, you look at them and they speak silently to you in ways that words can’t describe. They are inexplicably powerful. Sometimes one ends up in your pocket. Other times they get dropped and moved around by our actions as well as that of […]

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Tree Trunk Holes

29 May 2014
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The competition is on to find the best worn tree trunk in the world. At the Nature Nurture site in the Camphill Aberdeen estate, sits one of the best examples I have seen so far (as pictured above) and this is why…

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Minibeast Hotels and Other Residences

24 May 2014
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There is something about humans which makes us not only want to adapt and change our own habitats and homes, but that of other creatures. Generally, the more natural an environment the better it is for wildlife to flourish. Given that most school grounds are highly artificial outdoor spaces, then providing artificial homes for minibeasts […]

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Fairy Gardens and Literacy

4 May 2014
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Recently I visited Westpark  Nursery in Aberdeen, which had been donated a large raised bed – the sort that is traditionally used around towns for floral displays. At first the staff and children wondered how to use it as it seemed too big and too high to be of any real use. Then a spark of […]

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Rainbow Maths Sticks

8 April 2014
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The mathematical potential of a stick never ceases to amaze me. Here’s my latest idea which is remarkably simple and came about owing to overhearing someone mention colour coding. You get some sticks. You paint the ends different colours. You play with them. You explore the potential for maths. That’s it. Experiment! Now if you […]

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The Stone Stacks of Aberdeen

22 March 2014
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There is a mystery stone stacker in Aberdeen City. I’ve seen him work from a distance but the moment you get too close, he disappears leaving the only the stacks as a trace. They can be found in several locations: the Mouth of the Don, The Breakwater Beach and Nigg Bay. There is something very […]

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Daffodil Stories and Celebrations

15 March 2014
Daffodil Principle

Ways to welcome the daffodils appearance

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A Crocus Labyrinth

5 March 2014
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When the crocus appears, it’s a positive indication that spring is on its way. Snowdrop is the lead flower in letting us know that winter’s days are numbered. But crocus is the follower that affirms the decision of snowdrop to rear its head above the snow. Snowdrop may kickstart the spring party but it’s the […]

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