Why is Nature Play so Important?

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in." ~Rachel Carson

What is your fondest memory in nature? Is it something from your childhood? As adults, it’s easy for us to recall our time as children splashing in puddles, laying in grass watching clouds and birds above, or exploring the woods alone for the first time. For children today, such nature-based free-play activities are not common.

We - both children and adults - are more disconnected from nature than ever before, which is having a tremendous impact on our physical health, mental health, and academic success. Here are just a few staggering statistics:

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Research shows that spending time in nature is incredibly important, no matter your age. 

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We know finding time in our busy lives to get outside and play can be difficult. Working multiple jobs, feeling as though you lack access to nature spaces, and weather conditions don’t help. Tracy Aviary’s Education Department is here to help!

Join us for a free Nature in the City program. We are out and about in parks and open spaces throughout Salt Lake City all year long. We provide all of the materials and an educational experience while also giving freedom to explore, play, and get comfortable in nature.

Can’t make it to one of our programs? Check out I Love Dirt by Jennifer Ward. This book provides 52 activities to do with kids in nature. Find it at Salt Lake City Public Library (call number 796.5 W259 i).

Or, visit Tracy Aviary! Did you know we are both a zoo and a botanical garden? Take a leisurely walk with your family or friends. Check out our amazing free-with-admission educational opportunities such as bird shows, keeper talks, and occasional staff-led tours. Our grounds also have plenty of play features, including large logs to walk or crawl across, streams (yes, we encourage you to get your feet wet in the streams by Treasures of the Rainforest and Macaws), boulder and rock paths to test motor skills, and a dry stream bed! All in the comforts of the Aviary.

Want to learn more about the importance of nature play and learn how to facilitate such activities? Join us for our Nature Play Workshop. Designed for teachers, informal educators, parents, and anyone else interested, this half-day workshop will leave you walking away understanding why connecting to nature is important! Check for registration to open here.


- Michelle Mileham (Director of Education)