Schemas of Play in Nature - Spring Edition
Updated: Aug 6, 2021
Play schemas are the repeated behaviors that children show through play which facilitate their development. These stages of play are
both normal and necessary actions that allow children to develop an understanding of the world around them and how it works. While I’ve given you a list of play activities to match the play schema your child is in, don’t be afraid to suggest your child try an activity in another schema altogether. But most importantly, have fun and let them lead the way!
If your child likes to sort items into specific groups or order have them;
group rocks, sticks, petals, leaves or nature item by size, shape, color, texture, largest to smallest & smallest to largest
find flowers & leaves and sort by category, size, shape, color
Tip! Provide or collect/create together different objects & categories for sorting!
If your child likes to move & transport items have them;
pick-up sticks & haul them in a bucket, bag, basket, or wagon
rake flower beds, garden, yard and haul to compost bin or dump area
roll a log
roll a rock
load & move dirt in a bucket or toy truck
Tip! Provide or collect together different objects to transport & various transporting devices!
If your child likes to combine items to form or create new ones have them;
make mud soup
make a garden potion with flowers, grass, etc.
make mud pie
muddle flowers and leaves in water to make paint
combine dirt & water to make mud
create nature faces with mud & nature items
use sand toys to turn mud, sand, or dirt into castles, shapes, words, etc. & use found nature items to decorate
create letters, words, names, artwork with items from nature - sticks, leaves, flowers, etc.
If your child likes to throw or drop things have them;
skip rocks across the ground or water source
target practice throwing with rocks
toss nature items like rocks or sticks into puddles
roll down a hill
throw leaves or grass in the air
pour water, water plants
stomp & splash in puddles
drop or roll items down a slide
If your child likes to spin or draw circles have them;
create circles out of nature items (example, mandalas or mazes)
spin rocks or sticks like a top
draw circles in the dirt of different sizes using sticks
make mud track circles with their footprints
make circles out of wet footprints
mix and stir various items
Tip! Provide materials with wheels or that spin that you already have on hand such as a wind spinner!
If your child likes putting items together & taking them apart have them;
build a tower using rocks
build a bridge using sticks or nature items
build a dam
tie rope or string to trees or sticks to connect them
build a mini habitat, den, or hut for toy animals
build a life size den using fallen trees, sticks, and limbs
connect flowers/stems to form a bracelet
thread leaves together on a string
cut, clip, trim plants
pull weeds & shake off the dirt
If your child likes to get a different view of things or hang upside down have them;
look up at the trees, stars, sky
count clouds, stars, or tree branches
watch the rain falling
watch or count airplanes going by
climb a tree
hang upside down
fly a kite and watch it in the sky
use a magnifying glass to look at flowers, insects, and nature
use binoculars to look at nature - look for birds, stars, animals, etc.
If your child likes to hide & reappear or wrap things up have them;
cover their feet in dirt, grass, or leaves
bury a toy or nature item in the mud, dirt, leaves, etc.
wrap a toy or nature item in a large leaf, blanket, or piece of fabric
If your child likes to place things inside of larger things or create enclosed spaces have them;
build a fort
build a nest - small (for toys) or kid-size to get in & play!
build a cave out of mud, dirt, rocks, sticks, for toy animals
fill a bucket rocks & wash the rocks
fill a bucket with found treasures
collect nature items in different containers like egg cartons, buckets, baskets, etc.
build a flower bed using rocks or sticks as a border
wrap nature items in leaves
build a fire pit with rocks for the surround and fill with sticks
One of my favorite Spring activities is fort, nest, or den building! Building forts or habitats covers multiple schemas of play and is an activity loved by children of all ages- it's also an excellent STEM project! It’s also a project that can be worked on over time, giving children something to do over the course of several days or even weeks. This activity can also be done on a small scale by building and creating mini habitats for toy animals! For small yard or balcony play, provide materials in a storage container or bin or use materials collected on a nature walk in the park!
Begin by having children collect items to build with or provide them if necessary. Sticks, branches, leaves, rocks, and more! Next, encourage them to build! Sometimes, they may need guidance getting started but will begin to let their imagination inspire them and create & build all on their own!