Imagination & Nature

Imaginative Play in the Woods

“Logic will get you from A to B; imagination will get you everywhere.” – Albert Einstein

According to Bob Hughes imaginative play breaks the conventional rules which govern the physical world, and fantasy play is the make-believe world of children. When all children have is what nature offers, it’s truly amazing to see their creativity come to life.


Role play, make-believe, whatever you like to call it, the woods is the perfect place to let your imagination run wild. Throughout our sessions we have encountered brave warriors with stick swords and bark shields, we have fought off the scariest of mud monsters, we have created homes for fairies, and even had our own nature catwalk with fern dresses and beech headbands.

Not only does imaginative play allow children to express their creative side, but it can also benefit their personal, social and emotional wellbeing. The freedom of imaginative play enables children to express themselves in different roles, and from our own experiences, this can bring out a whole new person beaming with confidence, knowing that role was “made for them”.   The collaboration with other children to create common mindset about their role-playing game helps children to communicate their ideas and express their likes and dislikes about certain aspects of the games.


Of course, imaginative play can occur within 4 walls, however, it’s scientifically proven that being submerged in nature is beneficial to our mental health, achieving a more relaxed state of mind (Armstrong 1996). As well as being relaxed, the removal of the 4 walls and “bubble-wrapped” approach to the children’s safety encourages the children to risk assess the next steps in their play.

5 ways you can be imaginative in the woods.

Play with Sticks!

A stick can become anything, children love to turn them into swords, wands, batons, pooh sticks… whatever they can imagine, the stick becomes.

Discover homes of magical creatures…

“Oh look a hole in the ground, but who does that hole belong to?” Encourage children to create stories about certain things you find in nature. It doesn’t just have to be a hole, it could be a fairies burrow or a dragon’s den, give chances for their imagination to explode.

Become intrepid explorers…

I have walked in the same park for years, however, I still take time to come off the beaten track and see what amazing things I can find, whether new mushrooms, shy birds or unusual flowers. Encourage your child to take on the role of an explorer/investigator and see what unusual things they can discover, you never know what it might lead to.

Woodland creatures

It’s amazing what animals you will come across during your time outdoors, we’ve encountered a wide range of animals including deer, foxes and birds. The one that really intrigued the children was a little mouse, and just by talking about the mouse and how scared it must be being out with all of us sent the children into grand designs mode, “We could build it a house!” Working as a team they imagined what the mouse would need to be comfy and built it the perfect home. Maybe you’ll find some woodland creatures who need your help whilst you’re on your adventures.

5. A shipwreck, a jungle, the land of the dinosaurs…

Tree’s are wonderful things, they’re so unique in the way they grow and fill natural spaces. Have you ever seen a tree and thought it looks like something else? Maybe it was fallen and looked like an octopus, or maybe it was in a lake and turned into a ginormous crocodile, or maybe, just maybe, it reached so high into the sky, it meets the giant in his castle. Sometimes children need to be shown how to play. If you put yourself into the shoes of a child and get excited about the “tree where the dinosaurs hide”, imagine what wonderful stories they can create just from the setting that they are in… and who knows, you might just have some fun too!

By Lauren Taylor – Forest Frontiers Forest School Assistant

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