The fresh air, the fresh smell of rain, the melodious birdsong echoing in the tall, lush trees — what’s more serene than being in nature? While we all appreciate our surroundings, today’s digital age makes us focus more on the light of our screens than on the sunset.
The outdoors tends to take a backseat to our busy lives, but making it a priority has significant benefits. In fact, one study found that spending just two hours a week in nature leads to better health and happiness.
If nature has the power to improve the lives of adults, imagine what it can do for children! More and more research shows that spending time in nature promotes better concentration, self-discipline, creativity, physical fitness and social connection in children. It can also help reduce stress levels and make them more engaged in learning.
So, how can we ensure our children are spending enough quality time with mother nature? One of the best is to keep it simple and fun, no matter what age they are — a walk in nature!
To help explain the benefits of exploring nature, we spoke with two experts on the subject: Richard Louv, co-founder and emeritus president of Children & Nature Networks and author of “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature – Deficit Disorder,” and Suzanne Davis, a licensed professional counselor, registered play therapist, and owner of the Counseling & Counseling Center Davis Play Therapy in Virginia.
What is a nature walk?
Walking in nature is an opportunity to relax, spend time and explore the environment. “Nature walking is a great way to ‘unplug’, observe and explore nature while enjoying the outdoors,” explains Davis. “There are endless possibilities for connecting with your child by creating positive activities and memories together.”
Instead of a one-way interaction with a phone or tablet, nature walks stimulate all of a child’s senses and provide a hands-on approach to learning about the world.
Davis adds, “[It also] provide opportunities to improve parent-child relationships. Taking time on purpose to clear your mind means being fully present in the moment with your child without distractions, renewing physically and mentally. ”
Why is Nature so important to children’s development?
Not only is outdoor play fun for children, but it also helps promote children’s intellectual, emotional, social and physical development.
Louv explains, “Studies specifically suggests that time in nature can help many children learn to build confidence in themselves, reduce symptoms of ADHD, [and] calm them down and help them focus. ”
In his book, Louv introduces the term “substance deficiency disorder,” which he internationally refers to and defines as, “Not a medical diagnosis, but a useful term.” useful – a metaphor – to describe what many of us believe is the human cost of alienation from nature, as suggested by recent research.”
Benefits of exploring nature
Choosing to spend time in nature (instead of hiding) comes with a host of benefits for children. Their physical, cognitive, and emotional health can be improved by something as simple as playing in their own backyard.
Outdoor time keeps kids active and exercised, helps reduce stress and fatigue, and improves physical health. It also fosters creativity and imagination by allowing children the freedom to interact with nature in their own creative ways.
Time in nature is clearly not a cure, but it can be of great help, especially for kids stressed by circumstances beyond their control.
– Richard Louv
Of course, material benefits are not the only thing that nature offers. Outdoor play is much less structured than indoor play, which gives children more freedom to interact with the environment in their own way (ultimately boosting their confidence). Literature review indicates that nature can also lead to better academic performance, increased interest and enjoyment in learning, and improved children’s attention span.
As they develop psychologically and socially, nature helps children become more active, have stronger connections with nature (including a desire to protect it), and display more pro-social behaviors than.
“Time spent in nature is clearly not a cure, but it can be of great help, especially for children stressed by circumstances beyond their control,” he said. of them”.
Tips for Planning a Nature Walk with Your Child
Any walk can become a walk in nature as long as you participate and learn about your surroundings. What do you see? Feel? Hear or smell? What animals, plants, insects and birds can you point out?
When planning a nature walk, an important tip to keep in mind is to have fun with it! Louv says: Going for a nature walk doesn’t have to be complicated. “If children are given the opportunity to experience nature, even in simple ways, interaction and participation happens quite naturally.”
The goal is to get them engaged and excited to learn, and that’s not hard to do when you’re surrounded by the beauty of nature. You can explore the park, hiking trail, creek, or your own backyard. Here are some tips for planning your child’s next nature walk.
Let them get dirty
If your child is anxious to crawl in the dirt for a closer look at bugs, then let’s get started! Dirt can make a bad rap, but it shouldn’t. Research shows that children playing in the dirt are exposed to bacteria, germs, viruses, and parasites that can help build their immune systems and reduce their risk of certain allergies and illnesses. disability later in life.
Let them lead the way
When it comes to young children, Louv recommends giving them the freedom to explore on their own terms.
“Encourage them to stop to flip rocks, touch moss, and when possible, climb over rocks and fallen trees,” he said. “No matter what environment you judge for undue danger, toddlers can set the pace — stimulating confidence, agility, problem-solving, creativity, and a sense of wonder.” course.”
Most importantly, don’t let the digital world interfere with the experience. Louv suggests, “Put your cell phone in your pocket, turn off the ringer,” and point out objects or landscape features you see.
Nature is the perfect setting to foster children’s creativity and imagination. Davis suggests pretend play, such as using a stick as a sword or wand, or creating stories about items found during your walk.
Your findings also work well for an art project. “Collecting rocks during a nature walk can later be painted and recreated into beautiful works of art,” says Davis.
Create a scavenger hunt
A scavenger hunt is a great way to keep the kids engaged and interested. Davis suggests: “Before going on a nature walk with your child, collaborate on creating a list of items on a 3×5 index card to find during your hike and find the items on your list in a fun way. “.
Scavenger hunt items also make great art supplies — for example, conifers can become bird feeders or seashells can be turned into decorations.
Let older kids take more risks
For the older kids, it’s all about creating a deeper connection with the world around them.
“With older kids, you can encourage them to connect with nature on a deeper level by exploring their senses,” explains Louv. “Try letting them walk barefoot on different surfaces to improve texture and terrain perception.”
If you want to be a little more adventurous, Louv recommends covering your eyes to focus on the rest of your senses: “Blind the kids and have them follow a rope through a variety of terrain that they can smell. , hear and feel things. Walk through a forest or field, or along a creek, and ask your child to report what they smell — then write it down in a nature diary.”
Daily way to connect kids with nature
While nature walks provide a wonderful opportunity for children to explore the environment, there are other simple, everyday ways to help children connect with nature. Best way to do this? Spend as much time outdoors as possible, even if it’s just walking down the street or relaxing in your backyard.
“Even in a crowded urban environment, nature can still be found nearby, somewhere in the vicinity,” explains Louv. “Connecting with nature can be as simple as planning a regular walk around a local park, having a picnic, or learning how to garden in containers on your back.”
A very good word
The power of nature can be felt even in the simplest settings. By making a conscious effort to explore it, you and your child will open the door to better health, new adventures, and irreplaceable memories.
“We can all create new natural habitats in and around our homes, schools, neighborhoods, workplaces, cities and suburbs,” says Louv. “Even in inner-city cities, our children grow up in the wild – not with it, but in it.”
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