Nature Play at Home

Creating Outdoor Spaces that Connect Children to the Natural World

by Nancy Striniste, illustrations by Jennifer Ren

Access to technology has created a generation of children who are more plugged in than ever before—often with negative consequences. Unrestricted outdoor play reduces stress, improves health, and enhances creativity, learning, and attention span. In Nature Play at Home, Nancy Striniste gives caregivers the tools they need to make outdoor adventures possible in their homes, schools, and neighborhoods. With hundreds of inspiring ideas and 12 illustrated, step-by-step projects, this hardworking book details how to create playspaces that use natural materials—like logs, boulders, sand, water, and plants of all kinds. Projects include hillside slides, seating circles, sand pits, and more. Accessible, research-based, and timely, Nature Play at Home is a must-have for modern parents and caregivers.


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Nature Play at Home is a magnificent resource for transforming backyards into stimulating environments which enhance children’s creativity, learning, and fun.

Richard Louv, founder of the Children and Nature Network and author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder

Building tree houses, climbing trees, and playing ball in backyards are many adults’ favorite childhood memories, but structured and supervised may better describe kids at present, with more time spent in front of screens and less time outdoors. Landscape designer and early childhood educator Striniste offers up some good news, however, producing this resource after receiving inquiries from families, schools, early childhood programs, and municipalities looking for places for their children to play in nature. Striniste advocates activities in parks, schoolyards, common spaces in communities, and backyards. Everyday materials such as pizza boxes, duct tape, and PAM cooking spray are used for some of the projects, with others requiring more expensive items. Enjoying gardens that engage the five senses, creating yard fixtures to attract wildlife, and making a butterfly-friendly area are but a few of the ideas included in this eye-catching volume.

VERDICT Colorful and filled with great solutions for connecting kids to the natural world; highly recommended.


Nature Play at Home is a remarkable treasure trove of ideas. I wish I’d had this book as a parent and I’m thrilled I’ll have it available as a grandparent. The book is lavishly illustrated with close ups of all kinds of nature play elements—gateways, edible plantings, pathways, simple climbing structures, cozy seating—and there are easily accessible instructions for how to construct these in your backyard, school or community park. And there’s a child in almost every picture illustrating that yes, real children want to play on each and every one of these features. What a gift to children, parents, and designers.

David Sobel, Senior Faculty, Education Department, Antioch University New England and author of Wild Play, Beyond Ecophobia, Place-based Education and more.

Nancy Striniste is the rare teacher able to the connect children and families with the beauty, challenge and mystery of the natural world through design. Organized like a reference book and structured like a conversation, this book is hard to put down. It’s expert guidance is laced with luscious images from all over the world of beautiful natural places for children and explains why and how we should be building them.

Ginny Sullivan, Co-author, Lens on Outdoor Learning (2011) Redleaf Press

Wow! Finally, a book that is readable, as well as full of earth-friendly and affordable ideas. This makes creating nature play spaces accessible to anyone. It offers ways to tease the senses and nurture the soul, and open the mind to endless possibilities.

Margo Sipes, Executive Director, Downtown Baltimore Child Care

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