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

An Outdoor Memory Game

25 February 2014
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At the International Skogsmulle Symposium in Japan last year there was an afternoon of playing games and undertaking practical activities such as making things with bamboo. This very simple memory game was featured and this is how it is played…

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10+ Outdoor Ideas for Rainy Days

1 February 2014
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It’s been a very wet winter this year. Rather than stay inside and suffer cabin fever, there is lots of fun to be had, donning the boots, waterproof clothes and heading out into the rain.  Below is a collection of the blog posts and other ideas for rainy day activities.

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Nature Mastermind

7 January 2014
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A great variation on the Seventies classic strategy game

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Snow Fun: 15+ Ideas

5 January 2014
Snow Angel

Wrap up warm and enjoy learning outdoors in the white stuff!

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Make a Wish for 2014

30 December 2013
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A resolution with hope 🙂

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5 Ways to Re-use your Xmas Tree

26 December 2013
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Would love to know your ideas too…

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The Mathematics of Festive Crafts

14 December 2013
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Recap the term’s work!

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The Urban Beach Visits

27 November 2013
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Find nature in the heart of a city

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A Bird Feeding Garden

12 November 2013
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Not your usual feeding station!

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The Art of Woodland Play

20 October 2013
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A playful forest walk

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Autumn Wires featuring Berries

12 October 2013
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A flexible approach to gathering seasonal fruits

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Leaf Multiplication

5 October 2013
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Learn your tables with leaves

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Leaf Art

24 September 2013
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Autumnal environmental art

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Using Leaves for Learning – 10 Ideas

20 September 2013
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A collection worth looking at

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Let’s Get Cooking in a Mud Kitchen

8 September 2013
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Mud Pie Adventures

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10 Ideas for Playing in Long Grass

27 August 2013
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Long grass – a “must have” play resource

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Daisy Footprints – Maths Outdoors

10 July 2013
Daisy Footprints

Daisies are tough little flowers and the fun of footprints and daisies makes this a summer activity not to be missed!

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Beach Play – 10 Ideas

5 July 2013
Beach Play

With the summer holidays either approaching or begun, then there is nothing better than a visit to the seaside.

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10 Ideas for Mud Play

4 June 2013
International Mud Day

29th June is International Mud Day…enjoy the mudfest with these ideas to celebrate mud!

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Seafood Investigations

31 May 2013
Seafood Platter

With seafood, there’s a lot leftover in terms of shells, heads and other body parts, perfect for class!

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10 Little Stick Activities

26 April 2013
Stick Box

Sticks are possibly the most versatile play resource that nature ever invented.

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How to Make a Seed Bomb

13 April 2013
Seed Bomb

Making and setting seed bombs is a great way to get kids planting!

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Natural Elements in Playgrounds

4 April 2013
Out on a limb

This is a guest blog post by Frode Svane, an architect and a pedagog.

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10 Rock, Pebble and Stone Play Ideas

26 March 2013
Pebble Play

Pebbles, stones and rocks – ideas for learning and play activites.

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The Art of Plant Study Outside

9 March 2013
Plant Study

Art and science combine outdoors in the study of plants.

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10 Puddle Play Investigations

23 February 2013
Puddle Play

10 ideas for science outdoors investigating puddles.

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Waldkindergarten – Forest Kindergarten in Germany

9 February 2013
Forest Kindergarten

Today there are more than 1000 Forest Kindergartens in Germany. They enjoy great popularity and their waiting lists are long.

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Shadow Play – 10 Ideas

29 January 2013
Shadow Play

One of the best things about winter are the bright, cold, cloudless days. They are perfect for investigating shadows.

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Stewardship of a Woodland

20 January 2013

Recently I was undertaking a professional site visit on behalf of Grounds for Learning to Muirtown Primary School in Inverness. As part of the visit, I was asked to provide advice about a patch of woodland, the school adopted seven years ago. It is situated just over a mile from the school within the larger Dunain […]

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The Beauty of Bamboo

16 January 2013

Bamboo grows like a weed in Japan but also makes over 2000 products.

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Algebraic Equations

6 January 2013
Algebraic Equations

The idea of objects representing numbers is not new and works well for reinforcing basic numeracy skills.

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Exploding Leaves

15 December 2012
Leaf Explosions

Children like explosions and autumn is a great time for leaf explosions!

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The Black Spot – Pirate Maths Outdoors

30 October 2012
The Black Spot

Leaves and maths outdoors for all ye landlubbers…arrr!

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After the Storm – A Transient Art Project

26 October 2012
After the storm

Twenty-five years ago this month, storms ripped through the south of England causing massive disruption.

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Making Rosehip Syrup

23 October 2012
Rosehip Syrup

How to make and the history of the classic autumn syrup.

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A Very Berry Harvest

4 October 2012
Very Berry Harvest

Most religious festivals began when our ancestors spent more time outdoors.

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Check out this greenhouse

23 September 2012

Sometimes the outdoors is indoors.

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Stump Holes for Play

19 September 2012
Tree Stumps

The play potential is vast with tree stumps.

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