Natural resources

The gifts from Papatuanuku (Mother Earth) are the bases for healthy learning experiences. Natural resources are aesthetically pleasing, while providing hands-on experiences for children.

A wide range of materials is appropriate for use by children of all ages. Exposure to natural materials offers opportunities to develop theories about how things work in the living, physical and material worlds. Exploring natural materials provides an early science experience.

Natural materials help children develop:

  • An appreciation of the natural world – sounds, textures, tastes, and smells
  • A sense of curiosity
  • A desire to experiment

Setting up a natural resource area

Natural resources can be part of the items provided in most areas of play (collage, carpentry, clay, painting, etc.). They can also be used in a separate display on a table or shelves for children to touch, smell, pick up, and observe. A natural resource display could include:

  • A selection of natural materials, such as shells, bark, sponges, bulrush, etc.
  • Aquarium, pot plants, wormery, magnifying glasses
  • Posters, books and information about the natural world 

Other natural resources suitable for use in playgroups

Shells, stones, seeds, leaves, flowers, branches, logs, driftwood, seaweed, moss, lichen, rocks, sticks, pine cones, seedlings, plants, bones, fur, feathers, and flax.

For children under three, all items should be too large to fit in a film canister, for safety. All items should be non-poisonous.

Ideas for using natural resources

  • Seriation - place shells or stones in a row from smallest to largest
  • Threading - thread holey shells, leaves, etc. onto a thick string
  • Sorting and matching - sort stones, shells, flowers, etc. into groups of the same colour, size or shape
  • Pressings - use leaves, shells or nuts to make patterns in clay or dough
  • Painting - paint on stones, driftwood, large leaves
  • Weaving - use flax or palm leaves for simple weaving activities. Weave string between branches, add feathers, wool, etc.
  • Leaf rubbings - place thin paper over a leaf, lightly rub a crayon over the paper to make a pattern
  • Collage - a wide range of natural resources can be used for collage. 

Adults can help

  • Encourage discussions about the materials
  • Encourage awareness of all the wonderful natural resources in our areas
  • Share knowledge of the natural world
  • Join children in experimenting with the materials
  • Bring new items for display and display them attractively 

Last updated: 7 July 2009