Imagine lying in soft green grass, watching wispy white clouds drift across a cornflower blue. Or transport yourself to a virgin forest with gnarly old trees covered in lush green moss, inhale the piney earthiness, wander through the dappled light and listen to sweet birdsong from above.
Nature is an awesome backdrop to numerous special and everyday moments in our lives. We play, rest, exercise, and connect with others on beaches, in parks, forests, lakes, mountains, and backyards. and therefore the benefits nature offers are far-reaching: physiologically it boosts our immune systems, promotes healing, and increases life expectancy; psychologically and emotionally it promotes well-being, makes us feel alive with uplifting and energizing effects, helps us feel calmer, less anxious, or stressed and relieves attention fatigue. It also helps build social connections and increases prosocial behavior.
Children reap equivalent benefits from nature with research demonstrating that it improves children’s social interactions, helps them make friends, reduces bullying, improves problem-solving skills and concentration, encourages creativity, and reduces levels of stress, depression, and symptoms of ADHD.
Intuitively it is sensible that humans are genetically hardwired to attach to nature which we enjoy in innumerable ways. These benefits are continuously reaffirmed by recent studies showing the powerful impact nature has on us. Despite this data, humans are retreating indoors. Canadian children are spending 3 times longer indoors, on digital media, than they are doing outside in nature. Richard Louv, Co-Founder of the youngsters & Nature Network, argues, in his influential book Last Child within the Woods, that nature-deficit disorder is widespread, with children affected by diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and better rates of physical and emotional illnesses.
In his enlightening book “How to boost a Wild Child- The Art and Science of Falling crazy with Nature” Dr. Scott Sampson, Director of Science World in Vancouver, BC and a number one voice in highlighting the vital role of nature in children’s well-being, outlines factors that keep children indoors, including the digital revolution, media-induced safety fears, overscheduling and leaving little time for unstructured play, and lack of access to green spaces as nature is swallowed up by conurbation.
What we will do to assist children who fall crazy with nature?
Get outside with them- make family outdoor time a priority and plan for it.
Make new habits- get into nature more often. Older children may have more coaxing so he suggests using your imagination and inspiring them outside to play fun games. The key’s to line up nature because the fun, preferred option for playtime.
Model – Show kids what proportion you value nature through your actions and the way grateful you’re for it.
No tragedies before fourth grade- often before children have an opportunity to attach with the wildlife we burden them with tales of global climate change, vanishing habitats, and species extinction which may cause kids to feel worried and pessimistic about our planet’s future. The key’s to first attempt to engage children and show them how nature can foster “powerful feelings of wonder, awe, mystery, joy- and, yes, fear.”
If you’re a parent fight the urge to teach- strive to be co-adventurers.
Walk rather than drive and take time to smell the roses.
Nature can help foster empathy- mention how amazing trees and animals are and ponder how they experience the planet. Encourage children to imagine what it wishes to be a tree or a bird and obtain them to act it out. “Wonder deepens connection. With deeper connection comes empathy, then caring. And, with time, caring results in love”.
Get out of the way! allow them to play. He recommends being a hummingbird parent: letting children explore and problem solve while keeping your distance zooming in whenever safety may be a concern.
Increase learning and play outdoors and embrace the schoolyard as a learning environment. Teachers enjoy being outside too- teaching outdoors builds confidence and enthusiasm and fosters innovative teaching strategies.
Use the outside as a stress-reducing tool- being outside can ameliorate stress for both teachers and students and may increase engagement during the varsity day.