The space in which children play and develop influences their behavior . Surely it does not sound strange to you if I tell you that in a crowded and noisy place the game is frantic and in a place with light and orderly tones the game is calmer or deeper, right?

Well imagine what changes can be appreciated when the play space is nature or, in any case, an outdoor space without objects or toys of any kind, only natural elements as the only stimulus .

This year we are spending a lot of time outdoors and I have been able to observe the changes in the same children from a closed space to an open space. Not only they change, but also their game and the relationships that are established . In my experience, playing outside, in the open air and if it is in natural spaces even better, only brings benefits and positive changes.

There are more and more schools in the forest and more and more conventional schools are trying to adapt their outdoor spaces to turn them into more natural places (patios). Of course, learning directly from nature is much more interesting than doing it through a book, but I am also convinced that one of the reasons for “naturalizing” education is that children outdoors are more in tune with themselves and less stressed.

There are many studies on it but I only want to talk to you about those changes that are very palpable, that as soon as you go outside you will be able to observe. And they are important changes. Do you want to know which ones?

  1. THERE IS LESS DIVISION BETWEEN BOYS / GIRLS. The materials that we sometimes have at home, classrooms or any space “destined” for the little ones sometimes make girls and boys play what is considered typical of their gender, even though we have offered all kinds of toys and materials.

This is something that I have observed in several different circumstances and I always see how in closed spaces the tendency is for girls to play dolls and boys to cars (generalizing a lot of course, but so that you understand me) while outdoors the games more motor skills take center stage and differences are minimized.

And is that in nature everything is “unisex” , to put it in some way, hehe. Children play equally with sticks, stones, climbing mountains and trees and there are more games in common between both genders.

  1. LESS CONFLICTS ARISE BETWEEN CHILDRENIn nature we have nothing and children know it. It is there to nourish us and enjoy it, but it does not belong to us. This causes the usual conflicts of “this is mine”, “I had this”, disputes over blades, a specific doll or a bike disappear. It is not that these problems are negative, you learn everything and it is also necessary to learn to respect what the other has at a specific moment, but playing more outdoors generates calmer climates, very favorable for the little ones.
  2. LESS STRESS ACCUMULATES IN NATURE. Related to the previous point, nature offers more relaxed environments because there are no walls that contain children, nor small spaces in which they can feel overwhelmed.

In nature or outdoors, a child having a bad day, wanting to be alone, to disconnect, can do it. It is enough to move away a little, sit behind a stone, hide behind some bushes …


From what I have been able to observe, children outdoors and, especially in nature, are more than willing to collaborate with each other. They are aware that one alone cannot move a large log or build a cool cabin and, when someone tries unsuccessfully … someone else always comes to their aid. Groups and teamwork are organized spontaneously.


Playing outside, whether in a well-thought-out playground or park, with natural elements or nature, offers endless opportunities for little ones to value risks. Before climbing a tree you have to think about how to go up and, of course, how to go down. Before climbing a stone I will measure if I will be able to balance on it … and even sometimes they will believe that they are not capable of doing something and still they will try it. And sometimes, to your surprise, they will.

All of this gives them multiple opportunities to gauge the difficulties, the chances of success, the risks … and builds the confidence that they are capable of doing it or gauge the chances of success.


The fact that there are no artificial materials and apparently no toys forces children to create games and fun out of themselves . This is something I love to see outdoors. They can go through moments of boredom, moments of not knowing what to do, of course, but in nature they always end up finding what motivates them and the best thing is that that something is connected to an internal need of them.

Everything we find on the mountain or in the sea is unstructured material. Elements that are part of nature, that do not have a specific purpose to play but this gives them the opportunity to imagine multiple things or create them.

The truth is that observing children in these circumstances is wonderful. I’ve seen sticks turned into swords, earth turned into broken chocolate, logs turned into cars … the possibilities are as endless as your imagination.


And the most important reason of all… is that the children are there totally happy. Don’t you think that when the little ones run through the forest, they jump and hide, climb trees, pluck herbs and play with the earth… they are full? To me yes, it seems to me that they are in their place (and if it is a place with access to water, I don’t even tell you, hehe).

I do not want to end this article without qualifying that I say that children change in nature because today they are much more outside than in it. But surely it would be more accurate to say that taking children away from the natural environment is what modifies their behavior , generates stress, the need for external stimuli and a long etcetera.

But I do not intend with this article to idealize nature as the only place where children play and develop, but I do want to emphasize why it is important that children spend time in it or, in any case, that schoolyards and playgrounds become naturalized. And it is that natural open-air spaces, with their diversity and plurality, offer multiple challenges and opportunities for play, allowing each child to develop what they need at a given time. And that makes them happy. It’s worth going out more often, right?