Children’s Play in Nature: Explorative Embodiment

Children's outdoor play and experience with nature, or the lack thereof, have gained increased attention among researchers in Western countries. To understand the attraction of nature in children, one dominant discourse is expressed by the concept of risky play. By employing a phenomenological-hermeneutic approach and a triple-angled methodology consisting of participant observation, auto-photography and photo-elicitation during a family mountain-camp run by a national volunteer association, this article intends to contribute to the understanding of children’s own perspectives of nature, which have so far only received modest attention. Inspired by the core concepts affordances, inhabitation, curiosity, and ‘Bildung’, the article investigates children’s lived play experiences in nature as a way of exploring their own bodily abilities, while at the same inhabiting and experiencing the natural surroundings in ways that can be conceptualized as (self-)formation through curious play.

Keywords: children, outdoor play, affordances, education, curious play