Five reasons to encourage children to play with natural resources and real objects at home


Here at Ashbourne Day Nurseries, we are strong advocates of using natural resources.

We believe that natural resources are not only more environmentally friendly and less toxic for our children, but that they also offer more interesting learning opportunities for the early years age groups.

Below we explore five reasons why you should encourage your children to play with natural resources and real objects at home.

1. Real-life objects offer real-life experiences

We find that natural resources and real-life objects can help our children to develop their fine motor skills and to express their thoughts and ideas as they explore the various items available to them.

Children learn best from real experiences and can gain a greater understanding of weight, shape, and space.

We always encourage our children to use their imagination when they are playing with the resources as this develops their creativity.

By having real-life items in our nursery settings, children can expand their imaginative play. It also gives a home from home feeling and reflects what life is like their own homes and makes the settling in process easier.

This encourages them to think about how the objects can be used or what they can represent rather than using them for set purposes.

Utilising a variety of materials within our nurseries provides different looks, textures and smells which helps to stimulate and develop all five senses.

Sensory stimulation for young children is essential for brain development. It can help to strengthen sensory related brain functions. Exposing children to a variety of sensory experiences helps young brains to develop the proper sensory processing capabilities.


little girl by blocks of wood

2. Natural resources offer endless play and learning opportunities

A resource such as a cardboard box can hold unlimited opportunities for imaginative play, and children tend to gravitate towards these items for that very reason.

A toy telephone is just a telephone, but a cardboard box can be a house, a car, a rocket, or a tunnel!

Natural resources are great for imaginative play, encouraging children to think outside the box about how it can be used or what other items it may represent.

They offer open-ended play opportunities that are seemingly endless. Children are able to use natural resources to fit the play that they are working through at the time, rather than the materials dictating the play.

3. Using natural resources helps to bring the outside into the indoor environment

little boy playing with natural resources in a bag

The outside environment is a big contribution to learning and development, allowing children to experience the world around them through natural resources.

Bringing nature inside further supports children in using their senses and experiences to learn about the environment around them.

Natural materials are a great way for children to learn about time, change, investigation, and exploration.

Observing nature such as twigs and leaves that change throughout the seasons helps the children to feel and understand the world.

In the nursery gardens at Ashbourne Day Nurseries, children enjoy the outdoor play equipment as well as natural climbing opportunities.

These opportunities allow children, who are natural climbers, to challenge their increasing mobility and confidence.

This type of play allows the children to not only develop their physical skills, but to also discover what they can achieve independently, increasing their self-awareness and self-esteem.

Outdoor environments give children the opportunity to engage with others, developing their knowledge through play and interaction with other children and Early Years Practitioners.

Outside play also builds self-esteem, confidence, cooperation skills and gives children the opportunity to develop their imagination, creativity, mathematical and physical skills.

4. Encouraging children to be curious learners

Providing an interesting and ever-changing environment for children to explore is an ideal way to develop their natural sense of curiosity. It provides them with plenty of opportunities to ask questions, and to talk about the items that they have discovered. This is why we regularly change the layout of our nursery rooms and offer a variety of different learning opportunities to our children every day.

5. Helping children to develop problem-solving skills early on

There are infinite ways that natural resources can be used to help support the development of young children’s problem-solving, scientific and numeracy skills.

Examples of ways that natural resources can be utilised include, encouraging children to group the different types of natural resources by size, shape or colour, and to count how many of each item they have. Children are also able to investigate which natural resources sink or float in water.