Nurturing and Building Relationships with Natural Playspaces

Brand New Purpose Built 74 Place Childcare Centre, 3 Rooms

Written by:
Jo Harris Early Educational Advisor

Simplify Learning about relationships using Nature

Relationships are integral to living in our world. Some many complex scientific terms and concepts can be overwhelming to teach children but using the metaphors provided by nature can be a practical way for them to engage and benefit from their importance. Learning about relationships can be simplified by focusing on the ever-present and ever-changing cycles of the natural world. Spending time exploring these can provide a metaphor for the importance of this within our human relationships.

Encouraging children to equate nature with relationships assists them in expanding their understanding of the importance of interdependence between the same and different species. This creates meaning and value in how they perceive their social, emotional, and physical surroundings and interactions with people, plants, and animals that coexist with them.

Children develop wonder when in nature  

Many children are intrinsically drawn to nature and are curious to explore and interact with the elements. It is an amazing opportunity for educators to support children in making connections as they examine their world with awe and wonder, discovering its beauty and riches. When hands-on learning in nature is encouraged, children’s senses become heightened automatically and can become a catalyst for further discovery to support their developing understanding. 

Mirroring relationships with familiar characters and creating interactive play spaces brings this learning into greater context. Practical knowledge can flow into their connections with others around them through play and exploration.  

Relationships in nature bind and nurture us all

Beauty is a story that celebrates the importance of trees, community, and the relationships that nurture us all. Blending fiction and nonfiction, Beauty explores the role the Beauty Leaf Tree plays in the wider community of animals, insects, and plants.  

After reading this story with children, key concepts can be further developed by setting up a small world space that includes the characters and events of the story. Children will gain deeper insight into the connection between living things and the interconnection of different species.

By discussing the different perspectives of each of the human and non-human characters, children can consider how they relate to them and their ways of being. Educators can choose to focus on one or more characters and the messages that are conveyed between them.

Adding a mix of resources that represent the diversity of nature with different materials can enhance children’s play and learning. Items such as a handheld magnifying glass, bugs, and food replicas can invite opportunities to examine elements of nature up close when indoors which may inspire confidence to continue in the outdoor environment.

 Children and nature have always been connected

The Butterfly and the Ants tells a wonderful story of a tiny caterpillar and its journey to becoming a magnificent butterfly. The relationships between plants, butterflies, and ants focus on the lifecycles of each and how they live and work together. Educators can encourage children to extend their knowledge of the creatures that are often visible during their play, with an added understanding of their role in nature and pollination.

The characters in the story provide an analogy for the potential of human relationships. Incorporating a set of Wooden Life Cycle tiles with realistic photographic life cycle images children can learn how aspects of the growth and development of humans, plants, and animals and their basic similarities and differences.  

Another title in the Living in Australia Book Pack simply called ‘Swoop’ is a story that details a relationship with nature that many young children have had direct experience with. There is an opportunity to closely study how Magpie and humans can learn to live together with more understanding and less fear, which could be acted out by introducing a magpie puppet for children to explore their feelings with during role play.   

For more ideas and inspiration to support and develop relationship-building skills visit 

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