Children and Nature | Playing Amongst Lovely Things

“The most effective kind of education is that a child should play amongst lovely things.” – Plato

My youngest son Kienan is in his second year at Alaya Preschool, a preschool rooted in contemplative educational practices founded by the late Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. When the weather is nice after school, children and parents linger to play and connect in the play yards, which are carefully created and tended. Just as spring was unfolding this month, I was able to look around and appreciate the attention to detail, the opportunities for sensory play, and the hints of magic found in carefully placed daffodil flowers or mysterious fairy doors at the base of old trees. It was one of those moments when a warm wind was blowing after a long winter and I was able to see the play space with fresh eyes.

My boys were busy scooping water and building with stones and wood. Everything mirrored nature. There were trees to climb, a wooden play structure to swing off of, a sand area encircled by tree trunks. A small bridge hovered over a rock and flower garden. After seven years of my children attending Alaya Preschool, it struck me how many happy moments we have shared in this play yard, surrounded by lovely things.

I began to consider all the ‘things’ we often hand to children. Do they need any of them? Here, there are simple pleasures. There is fresh air, there is shade. There are living things. There is space to roam and run. Rocks, sticks, stones and rough wooden blocks abound. Each play yard is graced by the trickle of running water. I remember: Let’s make time for simple play. Let’s be outside. Nature offers what we need. Let’s foster an appreciation of lovely things…

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