Merlin Unwin Books

"Merlin Unwin Books are lively, innovative countryside book publishers.

Their well-produced range of rural, wildlife, fieldsports and fishing books never fail to inform and entertain."

Philip Dunne MP
co-founder of Ottakar’s bookshops

Nature's Playthings

A whole world of free entertainment is out there waiting to be discovered, in gardens, woodlands, hedgerows, rough land and open spaces.

All it needed was Alison Wilson Smith, now a grandmother, to recall her childhood activities using nothing but nature’s playthings, to inspire a whole new generation to play outdoors.

Here’s how to make itching powder from rosehips, the rules of conkers, the joys of making leaf-boats, flea darts, grass whistles, daisy chains, poppy dolls and more. Of playing pooh sticks, stone-skimming, pond-dipping, stick-in-the-mud, dam-building and feather-collecting.

This practical and lively book will remind parents and grand-parents, childminders, schools, and playgroups, how to inspire young people to get outside and enjoy nature’s playthings.

No batteries required!

Author: Alison Wilson Smith
ISBN: 978 1 906122 00 3
Published: April 2008
Format: 246 x 189 mm
Binding: Hardback
No. of pages: 192
140 colour photographs
10 black & white photographs
12 black & white illustrations
Price: £16.99

look inside this book
Nature's Playthings by Alison Wilson Smith
Pond dipping
Pond dipping

Reader reviews

Reviewed by R Mann in August 2008

This a lovely book, with material to charm children and their parents/teachers. The author combines brief practical descriptions of simple outdoor activities for children with anecdotes from her own childhood, and the written content is well complemented by illustrations - both photos and hand-drawn "how-to" diagrams for some of the games. As summer arrives, I can well imagine both parents and teachers reaching for this when at a loss for activities for their children that don't require money or equipment and which get them out of doors.


Reviewed by Sally O'Connor in August 2008

Smith's book is full of interesting and entertaining ways of using the natural playpark all around us, which our children often ignore. My partner reckons himself a bit of an expert with grass blowing, so that wasn't a surprise (except to see it described in a book) but cow pat frisbee? And what you can do with a crane fly... well, you'll have to find out. A good commonsense, they-won't-get-hurt attitude permeates the book which is a bit of a relief - we're all too protective of our kids - they need to get out there and have fun - Smith's book tells you how to tell them how. Great stuff.


Press reviews

Reviewed by Cas Ellis of Times Educational Supplement in April 2008

'Alison Wilson Smith has done us a great service in reminding us that children don’t need the latest hi-tech gadget to have fun. Nature’s Playthings is packed with simple yet creative ideas for outdoor play, inspired almost entirely by the author’s recollections of her childhood.'


Reviewed by Brian Viner of The Independent in April 2008

Endless entertainment from the fields and the hedgerows, without any need for the Nintendo Wii. She explains how to make grass whistles, quill pens and even itching powder out of rose  hips. But best of all, she advises that a cowpat that has dried in a perfect circle makes a fantastic Frisbee.


Reviewed in The Countryman in June 2008

What’s this? Free entertainment for children, no computer or game stations involved? Fresh air and exercise?


Reviewed in Sporting Shooter in December 2008

'Put away the Playstation and step back in time. A practical guide for all those who haven’t yet learned – and those who have forgotten.'


Reviewed in Children & Young People Now in November 2008

'It will be invaluable for play rangers or outreach play workers in parks, as well as parents and children. The text is clear and simple and the photos inspiring – the leaf boats compare with the best environmental art. I want one for Christmas.'


Reviewed in Creative Steps Magazine in September 2008

'Packed with seasonal fun guaranteed to get children seeing the great outdoors in a whole new light. Divided into seasons, this book will keep both children and adults fascinated for years to come.'


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