Children and nature are a match. Children need nature, and nature needs them. We are quite an outdoors family, and firm believers in the phrase, that there is no such thing as bad weather only bad clothing. However, the winter has been very very wet, and very very windy. Living in such an exposed place as we do, sometimes our outdoors time is limited during the day. These times tend to be either in torrential rain, gusty high winds, or if we are lucky a combination of the two! We try to be outside for at least an hour, in the local countryside or on the coast, for a mini person yomp a day, and at such a young age, we have three very good little walkers. On the days where weather isn’t blowing us over and rain isn’t hitting us sideways, we generally stay out for many many hours, wherever we have decided to take our little hikes for the day, just playing or exploring. Unfortunately, this has turned into a weekend thing for our little lady since being at school, and her connection to nature has become very minimal. She misses it hugely, we’ve noticed her missing it, and children need nature to thrive. This is one big reason we are taking her out of the indoor school culture in this country (and very minimal exposure to any weather other than dry!) and home educating her, as well as our mini men. Children need this contact with nature, and nature needs the contact with children.
We took advantage of the glorious weather over the weekend, and had our little family outside for most of it. On the Saturday we just sat on the beach letting our little trio explore/fish/dig/build or whatever their impulses led them to do. It was clear that our little lady was missing this contact with the sea, as she enjoyed just being, sat on her little groyne post, dangling her fishing net in the water half-halfheartedly whilst daydreaming, and looking very precarious fully dressed over the sea water! All three were content and happy pottering.
On the Sunday we took them up a steep local hill climb (complete with carrying their own lunches and extra kit needed, and of course the essential couldn’t possibly be left behind toys!). They enjoyed the walk and had a fabulous hour roaming and exploring the top with their cousins.
It is only by the children being outside in nature and experiencing it, that they will grow up respecting it and wanting to look after it. There is much research into the benefits of children being outdoors and experiencing nature, and yet our culture, both schooling and home, is leading to more and more indoors time. Being outside supports their development in a whole host of ways; emotionally, intellectually, socially, as well as the well known health and physical benefits. They grow in creativity and problem solving ability through outdoor play, and co-operation with each other is even increased. It reduces stress and induces a calmness, which in turn leads to healthier bodies and minds. Free play and unstructured time outdoors is vitally important too and it promotes curiosity and exploration. Children need nature. I love sitting on the sidelines not guiding them or butting in with my grown up “be careful” “mind out” phrases and seeing what they decide to get up to. Children don’t need to be timetabled or scheduled (something our culture is guilty of overdoing) they learn, play, and develop a lot more effectively when left to their own devices (within reason!!). Self esteem and well being improve, instead of being squashed under a barrage of tests, (and with the current standards being set for schools, they are being set up to fail more and more). They learn risk management and learn to take risks too, which helps in life as life is unpredictable, and they are better equipped to handle unpredictable situations. these are all very important reason why children need nature. Childhood needs to be simple. They need to be able to run, climb, and experience the happiness that comes with the freedom to explore. As well as children need nature, nature also needs our children to take an interest. They need to learn all about the environment they are living and growing up in, but through a hands on lifestyle, not just through their books or great TV programmes. They need to take an interest so they are aware of the impact us humans have on it and then think how we can look after it better. It should be a child’s right to be outdoors, not a weekend treat, and I am looking forward to reversing the balance on this issue along with many more, in……7 school days (and counting) time.