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Playing In Nature Helps Nursery Kids Settle Their Own Disputes

Playing In Nature Helps Nursery Kids Settle Their Own Disputes

I love this story! There are so many reasons why it’s a good idea for children to spend time in nature, and now here comes another one: the development of social skills.

Experts recently have been pointing out that time in nature reduces stress, soothes the psyche, and eases tensions, paving the way for improved communication and closer bonding with others.

So here’s a study that demonstrates exactly this point.

Children In Wales Solve Problems With No Help From Grown-Ups

In Brigend, a town in south Wales, about 22 miles west of the capital, Cardiff, a group of nursery school children took part in a trial of outdoor learning in the woods designed to promote independent play.

The result? Through the experiment, they learned to solve disputes without any help from adults.

In the trial, led by the Forestry Commission of Wales, the Pontycymer Nursery children were taught how to carry out a simple risk assessment of the woodland and given basic resources such as buckets, ropes, trowels, mud and water to encourage them to start playing.

The resources were reduced each week until the children just used what they could find in the woods to interact with and use in their games. The adults with them observed the children discreetly and recorded how involved the children were in their play.

From the BBC:

WfL (Woodlands for Life) education manager Karen Clarke said each child was assessed three times during the session for two minutes each time to analyse how they were interacting with their environment.

She said of the mediation skills the children started showing: “The conflict resolution came along during the project. Withdrawing adult-led interaction, it was a byproduct of the process.
“It was a very positive side of it.”

She added four children in particular who appeared not to be interested in their surroundings at the start became much more engaged as the project went on.

The children learned “how to negotiate with each other to get an agreed outcome” and were “finding out about becoming more resilient when things don’t go their way.

Wild Zones Growing In Popularity

Ms. Clarke reported on how the youngsters grew in confidence and were able to implement conflict resolution with no outside help.

The idea of giving children resources and encouraging them to work together in unstructured free play has been taking off around the world. In the US, as well as the UK and other parts of Europe, the notion of “Wild Zones” has been gaining popularity: places that allow for all types of play, outdoor laboratories on creativity with open-ended possibilities for self-designed play and socializing.

In outdoor settings, children are provided with resources like sticks, flowers, mud, branches, and they work together to create whatever they want. It’s exciting and fun to watch!

So it’s great to read of this study in Wales that has documented some wonderful benefits from this approach to learning.

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Photo Credit: istock

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63 comments

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11:17PM PST on Mar 4, 2014

Children need to get outside & enjoy themselves :) Thanks for sharing.

7:22PM PDT on Jun 14, 2012

not surprising. kids SHOULD be outside

1:32AM PST on Mar 7, 2012

Thank you for taking time to share with us your post and information.

12:03AM PST on Mar 7, 2012

all children should spend lots of time playing outdoors in nature...it's only natural.

11:42PM PST on Mar 6, 2012

Cool! I wanna have children, too! :DD

1:32AM PST on Mar 5, 2012

Thanks nature help every one including kids

11:50PM PST on Mar 4, 2012

Great. Thanks.

11:02PM PST on Mar 4, 2012

More a case study than an experiment, but nice to see people sending kids off the playground and into nature.

5:19PM PST on Mar 4, 2012

This really isn't a new thing for pete's sake! Outside amongst nature is always a good thing...however,as someone who played outside,camped & went exploring with others....I know it doesn't matter much when it comes to bullies...not every child will go along with negotiation if the outcome doesn't suit them.It matters very much that the parent steps in and calls a WRONG-a wrong and punishes them accordingly.There are some who are only too happy to let the problem (or their child) take care of itself. --Being around leaves,streams & tree's won't make one bit of difference if the child isn't properly taught how to handle themselves around others while growing up.What seems great one week or month-isn't always the behavior shown the next.Just saying.

9:17AM PST on Mar 4, 2012

I am amazed articles like this need to be written. Common sense should tell us children need to spend time outside with unstructured play time!

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