10 Ways to Build Crucial Development Skills with Nature-Based Play - The North Shore Moms

Co-Owners of Buttonloop Children’s Therapies, Aimee and Jeanette


We’ve all been told many times that play is the work of the child. So if you’re looking for some fun, outdoor, play activities for your kids this post is for you! A big thanks to Jeannette Kahn, Founder of Buttonloop Children’s Therapies (formerly North Shore Children’s Therapies) for writing this guest post! Jeannette is also a Developmental Consultant for Pediatric Healthcare Associates. If you’re interested in learning more about Buttonloop Children’s Therapies, visit their website at buttonlooptherapies.com.




10 Ways to Build Crucial Development Skills with Nature-Based Play


  1. Place acorns (good for a raking grasp) or small twigs or pebbles (to work on a pincer grasp) in a bucket to align with the dump and fill stage. For older kids, count to ten, twenty, thirty or by groups of two to build math skills!
  2. Compare and contrast two leaves. What types of descriptive words can you help your child weave into their vocabulary? These analytical skills are essential for critical thinking development…just in case your five year-old isn’t already a few steps ahead of you!
  3. Sit quietly in nature and count how many birds you can hear in a two-minute time frame. A child who can quietly sit without a device in hand? Your child’s kindergarten teacher will love you!
  4. Build motor skills for an overhand grasp by climbing a tree. I know, I know, it’s dangerous, but it is also so important for us to teach our children to take SMART risks. That means deep breaths and masking the fear in our eyes when they push the safety boundary (just a little!) to reach new heights-literally and figuratively.
  5. Build balance and agility by stepping from one rock to another. Do you have the next American Ninja Warrior in training???
  6. Use mixed media to develop a nature picture. Find a really cool leaf, glue it to a piece of paper, draw a head and paste pebbles for teeth. Viola, it’s a dragon! How many nature items can you incorporate into your picture? Hello creative genius!
  7. Paint with leaves, pinecones, twigs, rocks and then observe the difference that each item makes. Can your child grasp one of these items with his fingers, roll the objective over to his other palm or even hold the object between his toes and paint? Now that’s core stability at it’s finest!
  8. See if you can account for each color of the rainbow on a nature hike.
  9. Use science and engineering to build a fairy house. What items make the most stable base, which ones are light enough to lay across the top? The possibilities are endless…
  10. Watch animals or birds in nature and see if you can copy the movements of at least three wild critters! How would you describe these movements? Can you guess which animal your child is imitating? Rolling around in fits of laughter is encouraged.

Feeling up for the challenge? Join our 2022 Outdoor Summer Challenge by completing the list below for a chance to win a basket full of our very favorite books for building literacy skills!  Learn more at Buttonloop Therapies.




About Buttonloop Children’s Therapies – Buttonloop Children’s Therapies (formerly North Shore Children’s Therapies) offers a unique play-based approach to treatment as a multidisciplinary, pediatric practice focused on speech, occupational and feeding therapies, in addition to social skills coaching. Their team of passionate clinicians has provided exceptional care and partnership to over 5,000 families on the North Shore since 2010. At Buttonloop, they believe in creating an inclusive world that welcomes every child.

This post is sponsored by Buttonloop Children’s Therapies. Follow along with them at @buttonlooptherapies on Instagram and @butttonlooptherapies on Facebook.

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