In order for our children to bond with nature and the earth, they must spend time outside.
A growing body of evidence indicates that for humans to thrive in harmony with nature, we need to understand the importance of integrating it into our lives.
People of all ages who participate in nature-based activities tend to be happier and healthier than those who do not.
The benefits of connecting with nature start with our children. For example, infants and toddlers develop healthy, resilient bodies from time spent exploring hands-on and whole-body with natural materials. They are stimulated cognitively and physically by the sights and sounds in outdoor spaces. They develop social skills and bond with family members through shared experiences in the outdoors.
Outdoor play in school-aged children has been linked to the development of core skills, including problem-solving and reasoning, creativity, curiosity, risk-identification, self-regulation and social and emotional learning.
Children and adolescents with access to nature also tend to enjoy more physical activity. They benefit from reduced rates of obesity and other chronic diseases, including diabetes and heart disease, as well as enhanced emotional well-being and resilience.
Time spent in nature has an important protective role to play in the health and well-being at all ages. From gardening, to cycling, to simply walking outdoors, benefits reported include:
- improved blood pressure, pulse rates and stress hormone levels
- enhanced sense of well-being
- reduced levels of anxiety and depression
Research and references from Connecting with Nature to Care for Ourselves and the Earth: Recommendations for Decision Makers by Nature for All and the children and nature network. https://natureplayqld.org.au/case-studies/connecting-with-nature
Nature Play is a platform for child-led play
‘Child-led’ is a term wide enough to encompass a range of adult-infant play dynamics, from the first steps of ‘unstructured’ play time to ‘uninterrupted’ play. Child-led play is about letting children ‘go’ to do what they need to do to learn and to grow.
In child-led play children take the lead following the play urges genetically coded into their developing bodies and brains. Whether they are deeply engrossed in their own world, or interacting and playing with other children, this type of play is a requirement to unfolding and developing human beings as ‘designed’.
As the adults and guardians of these young ‘learning sponges’, it is our job to support them when required – or requested – and to sit back to watch and wait as they discover, invent and explore.
Written by Clare Caro for KINDLING – The Journal for Steiner Waldorf Early Child Care and Education (Issue 22 Autumn/Winter 2012).
- Spontaneous, open-ended, play in natural surroundings offers unrivalled opportunities for early learners to classify, observe, explore, and interpret the phenomena around them. (Kellert, 2005)
- Through play, in the varied and less structured spaces of the outdoors, children encounter diverse opportunities for decision making that stimulate problem solving and creativity.
- Direct experiences with nature, more commonly and fully provide the spontaneous and unplanned immersion, challenges, and inspirations necessary for maturation and development in children. (Kellert, 2005).
- Opportunities for creative use of loose parts and child-led investigation set the ground work for cognitive processes and support scientific and aesthetic thinking. (Ernst, 2008)
- Playing in nature stimulates creativity and problem-solving skills integral to executive function development which is required for lifelong success. Spending time in nature is essential for cognitive development. Children who play and spend time in nature have increased concentration and cognitive skills, including mitigation of ADHD/ADD symptoms.
From Nature Play is Important for the Cognitive Development of Early Learners
Annie Wallin, February 16, 2017, including all references
We carry the light in us and shed it onto others by teaching
For Aboriginal peoples, country is much more than a place. Rock, tree, river, hill, animal, human – all were formed of the same substance by the Ancestors who continue to live in land, water, sky. Country is filled with relations speaking language and following Law, no matter whether the shape of that relation is human, rock, crow, wattle. Country is loved, needed, and cared for, and country loves, needs, and cares for her peoples in turn. Country is family, culture, identity. Country is self.
Seeing the Light: Aboriginal Law, Learning and Sustainable Living in Country, by Ambelin Kwaymullina