Out to Play - creating outdoor play experiences for children: practical guidance

Guidance and advice for early learning and childcare settings and practitioners on how to access outdoor spaces to create safe, nurturing and inspiring outdoor learning experiences.

Appendix 3

Leave Less Trace Nature Play Principles

(adapted from Matthew Browning's work)

Prepare to Play

  • Play in small groups – avoid large numbers on a site or break into smaller groups.
  • Wear sensible outdoor clothes.
  • Avoid littering – go for litter-free snacks and take home all scraps of food waste.
  • Go to the toilet in the designated space and follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

Build and Dig with Care

  • Build dens in places that aren't really fragile - for example, in sand, rock, gravel, grass, and snow.
  • Build with sticks found on the ground - not on trees.
  • Dig holes - but fill them in afterwards.
  • Remember that trees are alive - hugs are great but cuts and breaks are painful!

Respect Things you Find in Nature

  • Ask adults what's safe to handle.
  • Start a small nature collection - bring a favourite object home and leave the rest. Not everything is okay to take.
  • Build a large "virtual" collection - take photos of lots of objects!
  • Climb trees branches bigger than your wrist
  • Find which trees are okay to climb. Some are more fragile than others.
  • Let plants stay at home – avoid moving them and their seeds from one area to another.
  • Try to only pick common wildflowers, berries and fungi. Only pick one or two even if there is a lot around.
  • Find out if there are any invasive plant species which are safe to pick and play with.
  • Find out if there's any plants you can help grow.

Be Nice to Animals

  • Gently catch minibeasts, frogs and toads with hands or nets.
  • Keep hands wet when handling toads and other amphibians.
  • Return captured animals to where you found them.
  • Remember that people food is not good for animals.
  • Make homes for wildlife and then leave them in peace so the animals move in.

Remember You're Playing in A Special Place

  • Treat others as you would like to be treated.
  • Return rocks, logs, and moss to where you found them – they are plant and animal homes!
  • Remove any mud clods from wellies before paddling in a stream.
  • Use scarves other protection to minimise bark damage from use of ropes or hammocks.
  • Agree the boundary of the main area to be used.



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