The Benefits of Free Play in Nature

By Teresa Currivan, LMFT, Parent Coach

Have you ever noticed how freely kids play in nature? Nature provides soft edges, new things to explore, and free items to build with.

I took this picture this weekend. This is a floating raft that boys and girls built out of driftwood and large ribbon kelp. The kids in this picture don’t all know each other and various kids came and went throughout the day. Some pushed, some made repairs by replacing pieces of wood. They all learned quickly how many kids the raft could hold, and exactly where they needed to sit or stand on it. No adults were needed in either the conceptualizing or carrying out of this project, which involved experimenting with concepts in engineering, physics, social skills and a lot more. It also addressed sensory needs such as proprioception. This kind of learning is perfect for all kids, but especially the experiential and visual-spatial learners out there. (And it helps the more linear-sequential learners to be more flexible.)

Nature often inspires joy and connection. Connection with each other, connection to nature, and connection to ourselves – our true nature. Adults relax. Kids play. This makes the perfect environment for self-led learning. And for being.

From Ken Finch’s article, A Parent’s Guide to Nature Play:

“School children who use playgrounds with trees, fields, shrubs, and vegetated edges show more creative play, better concentration, and more inter-gender play than peers with equipment-focused playgrounds.”

From Stephen Nachmanovitch’s book, Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art: 

“There is an old Sanskrit word, Lila (Leela), which means play. Richer than our word, it means divine play, the play of creation and destruction and re-creation, the folding and unfolding of the cosmos. Lila, free and deep, is both delight and enjoyment of this moment, and the play of God. It also means love. Lila may be the simplest thing there is—spontaneous, childish, disarming. But as we grow and experience the complexities of life, it may also be the most difficult and hard-won achievement imaginable, and it’s coming to fruition is a kind of homecoming to our true selves.”


Teresa Currivan is a mother and a licensed marriage and family therapist who coaches parents and adults by phone at Help My Child Thrive Coaching. She specializes in giftedness, twice exceptionality, life changes, family dynamics and supporting creative adults. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son. You can also find her on Facebook at 

She can be reached at or (925)478-7966.

Next Article: What Is a Visual-Spatial Learner?

You also might be interested in: Why It Is Vital To Know If Your Child Is Gifted.

or: Boredom in Motherhood: the Good, the Bad & the Ugly.

© 2018 Teresa Currivan