10 Ways to Connect to Mother Earth Through PLAY

Play is powerful. Play heals, teaches, motivates, and brings us closer to ourselves and and the people around us. As Maria Montessori put it, ‘Play is the work of the child’. Of course, our children love play, and they LOVE toys. They would have millions if they could. And while our delayed journey towards toy minimalism is not the subject of this post, there is an aspect of it we feel is so important and that we’ve managed to implement: playing outside without toys. Whether on the beach, in the forest, or in an empty field of grass and flowers, we love to experiment with meeting Mother Earth without toys as an intermediary.

Sun clock Free

Playing outside without toys has brought us so many unique opportunities to go deep into the world we inhabit.

When we aren’t distracted by the toys in our hands, we meet the world as it is. We listen to the birds, we feel the soil between our fingers, and there are so many questions, and discussions, new games, and fun connections. Without toys, creativity soars, and we create a direct relationship between ourselves and our Earth. What can we learn about sustainability through play?

Here are 11 ways to connect to Mother Earth thru play...

1. Make a sun clock on the beach. Did you know that if you put a stick in the ground when its sunny, the shadow becomes an hour hand on a clock, and shows the actual time.

2. What grew here? We have a saying, ‘you can’t tell the jungle not to grow’. It first came to us in Costa Rica, because it did not matter how urbane the setting, there would be tall tufts of grass or foliage peeking through.

coco cahuita

At one outdoor eatery in Cahuita, the foliage had grown so high and full that the owners put a little cage around it to protect it. What grows in the cracks in the sidewalk gives us clues to what the environment once looked like. Back when it was a full ecosystem, instead of just a neighbourhood. We've made this an entire exercise, going to the library to research what our neighborhood looked like before people built it out. You can take this even further and create a diorama, drawing, or other artistic rendering of what the area looked like before it was 'settled'.


3. Balancing stones. Balancing stones is a spiritual practice. Creating inner balance and outer balance at the same time. It’s a meditation. Like many of the activities on this list, it requires nothing but what’s provided by the environment. It doesn’t involve removing anything from it’s environment, only adding a bit of wonder and beauty.

stones at bay

4. Listen to the wind. Next time you are out for a walk, and aren’t sure just where to go. Ask the wind. Go in the direction that it pushes you. It’s great way imply go where it tells you. For extra fun, bring a kite.


5. Bird watching. Pigeons are not the most beautiful bird, I admit. When I seee them coming I go the other way. I’ve always called them flying rats. But are those the only birds in your neighbourhood? What about the closest park? Are there other birds? Listen. Do you hear more than one bird sound? Follow it. Where does it lead you?

3 little biirds

6. Climb a tree. True, some trees do not want to be climbed. Or even touched. It’s worth knowing which ones they are. But some just position their branches and sport smooth trunk skin that just invites touch. Perfectly placed branches just asking for someone to hop on. There’s always the risk of falling, but that is what trust and balance are for. Children learn to trust their bodies. They become surefooted and capable.


7. Forage. Perhaps where you live was more biodiverse than you know. Of anything that grows naturally, is there anything edible? How do you know? You don’t have to actually eat something, but a very engaged way of

8. Play barefoot. If you live in an urban space, you may have to do a quick scour and clean up of the space to make sure that there is no glass on the ground. But there are so many health benefits to walking barefoot in nature, from strengthening the immune system to relieving headaches to improving sleep patterns. The promise of easier bedtimes should be enough to convince you to shed the shoes!

shed the shoes

9. Communicate with animals. Did you know that cats developed the 'meow' sound only to communicate with humans? Can you figure out what they are trying to tell you? What happens if you sing to a bird? Mimic its tone? Will it sing back?


10. Dance in the Downpour. This is such a beautiful, embodied way to honour Mother Earth for the many things she gives freely…water. Instead of sitting at home because it is raining, literally celebrate it. You can go barefoot, or in rain boots. Run outside in whatever you happen to be wearing or slide on a rain jacket and grab an umbrella. And just dance. Jump. Say thank you.

dance in the downpour Límon

11. Play in something dirty. My kids have a way of finding the least sanitary places play like by a large sewer pipe on the beach, or in a the grass where sheep poop nearby, or soil with worms in it. Gross but good news, dirt makes you healthy, as Germans say. This has been scientifically proven. The immune system needs to practice in order to get stronger and bacteria makes good gut health. Not that your kid needs to eat dirt, but a little exposure probably wont hurt.