Children and nature, it is two words that go together. Yet, when we look at our communities today, we are seeing little of the two interacting together. But I believe that is changing, as people are learning and understanding the importance of nature for our children.
You may think that it is all just play and the children are not learning anything by just playing, but on the contrary, that is exactly what they are doing. And when you allow children to play out in nature, the learning is intensified.
A child playing in nature gives them a sense of place, an attachment to the place in which they grow up and play in. As they grow older, they take ownership of the place and want to protect it.
The build a sense of self, through playing, balancing on logs, navigating through a bush etc. They recognize their independence as they learn new skills out in nature. It also restores their well-being, reduces stress and benefits them physically and mentally. Through activities and play, nature offers possibilities to control and master, to manipulate loose parts in nature and learn different ways of moving and risk taking. The outdoors stimulates creativity, imagination and symbolic play.
In our schools we hear of many children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD and anxiety. When you offer opportunities for these children to spend time out in nature, the disorders dissipate and you see a child focused, relaxed and interacting with others.
We want our children to succeed, we see it in how we make sure they are ahead academically, the sports we put them into and the activities we expose them to. . Nature teaches them all of that, teaches them to get back up when they fall, to renegotiate the obstacles on the path (or off it), to learn the changes in the seasons, what animals do to adapt, the power in nature, the beauty and the ancient laws. Awareness of surroundings is amplified and how things are inter related are experienced first hand.
In the end a resilient child is raised into an unknown future. Nature offers an environment that allows questioning and observing. Uncertainty is built through the questioning process and this is where our children build confidence in themselves and decisions they make. To learn through play and manipulation and find answers to those questions. It is through play and testing that creativity is encouraged to come up with ideas, concepts and innovation. A child is now armed with innovation, creativity, and calmness, confidence, active, social, and empathetic member of our community. Everything needed to be “successful”.
Coming in 2013, we have Young Explorers program for 3-5 year olds, After School Program for 5-9 year olds, and Chicks in the Sticks, a girls outdoor club for 9-14 year olds. For more information, visit http://www.naturesbackpack.ca.