Why Nature Play?

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Seeing animals up close, taking a walk in the woods, finding interesting leaves and flowers and bugs, playing in the mud or in a stream, climbing trees, looking at clouds, or just running around a local park or the backyard – these are some of the many ways children can experience the wonders of the natural world. This kind of direct experience builds a love and understanding of nature, which in turn builds motivation to protect it.

Development of this conservation ethic is at the heart of our mission: the Association of Zoos and Aquariums envisions a world where, as a result of the work of accredited zoos and aquariums, all people respect, value, and conserve wildlife and wild places.

Nature Play Begins at Your Zoo & Aquarium is a collaboration between AZA and The Walt Disney Company that invites accredited zoos and aquariums to expand their commitment to connecting families to nature – and encourages families to get out and play, at a zoo or aquarium or anywhere outdoors.

We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this Earth, and to tell our stories. In my children’s memories, the adventures we’ve had together in nature will always exist.”
― Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

Evidence shows that spending time in nature helps physical and mental health and overall well being – and it’s especially important for children. Unstructured, spontaneous nature play helps children become self-reliant, explore their interests, solve problems, discover talents, and form individual identities. Children who play in nature tend to be happier as well as more self-disciplined, self-confident, creative, cooperative, and physically fit. Nature play can also strengthen family ties and promote a sense of community.

Besides – it’s fun! Wherever you are, get your family outdoors: check out our Places to Go page and find AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums plus national parks and other areas near you. The Things to Do section has activity ideas you can take with you anywhere. And we want to hear from you! Visit Share and Connect to submit your family-fun photos, ideas, and experiences.


See also:

“10 ways to get your kids out in nature, and why it matters”
– The Washington Post, October 21, 2014