Finding natural materials for play

Natural materials, such as bark, feathers and leaves, can be used in a wide range of ways in playtime to promote wonder and curiosity while learning.

As children explore and collect natural materials they are able to actively investigate scientific concepts, while being imaginative and creative.

Collecting natural materials
  • Go for a nature walk around the backyard, neighbourhood or park.
  • Look carefully at the ground, flowers, trees and paths.
  • Start a collection of natural things, such as rocks, stones, leaves, bark, feathers, seed pods, sticks and straw.
Ways to use natural materials
  • Sort the collection into groups, such as type, where they were found, colour, size and shape.
  • Match items that feel similar (e.g. rough, smooth) or look similar (shape, colour).
  • Add to playdough or clay to provide opportunities for your child to combine materials (for example, use seed pods for eyes, sticks for arms and legs).
  • Create leaf rubbings to observe shapes and patterns (for example,  place a leaf under a blank paper and rub with a crayon or pastel).
  • Create a collage by arranging natural objects or gluing them to card.
Supporting your child’s learning

Encourage your child to use their senses when outdoors. Ask them to talk about what they see, hear and smell. Invite your child to dig in the dirt with garden tools to see what they can discover and collect (for example, rocks, sticks).

You can continue the learning experience by talking about the kinds of materials you have collected. What was the most common? What was hard to find? What was their favourite, and why?



Published — 31 August 2016 Last updated — 07 May 2019

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