Your Child in Nature

Written By: Mrs. Pamela Leudke

Blog- Your child in Nature

This past school year has had children of all ages spend a disproportionate amount of time on screens, interacting in a 2-D world. Now that the summer holidays are here, it’s the perfect time for children to get ‘off-screen’ and get outdoors. Nature provides the perfect environment for children to reconnect with the 3-D world.

The importance of multi-sensory experiences for learning has long been known and supported by research. The benefits of using ’hands-on’ materials was recognized over 100 years ago by Dr. Maria Montessori and became a cornerstone of her Montessori pedagogy.

“He does it with his hands, by experience, first in play and then through work. The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence.” (Dr. Maria Montessori)

“It follows that the child can only develop fully by means of experience in his environment.” (Dr. Maria Montessori)

The developmental benefits of being out in nature have also long been known & supported by research. Studies have shown, through electronic monitoring, that children who go outside to play will have a two-and-a-half-fold increase in physical activity. Other studies have found that experience with animals early in life leads to a more empathic brain later in life. And still other research has shown that gardening can enhance overall life skills, develop the ability to work collaboratively and help create a self-understanding.

Children need to reintegrate their learning and development to sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. It’s time to take advantage of the warm weather, long days and the height of activity in the natural world and encourage them to explore in the best equipped playground – ‘Mother Nature’. The options and possibilities are endless but here are a few suggestions to get you started:

Gardening: This is one of the best places to introduce your child to a ‘full body’ experience. Not only is it a great place to apply Math and Language skills, it can be an opportunity for the whole family to participate in physical activity together.

Scavenger Hunts: These offer a world of adventure that children love and require them to use all 5 senses in order to locate what it is they need to seek and find. Geocaching is a more formal form of a scavenger hunt in which GPS coordinates and other clues lead you to a real treasure. A quick Google search will reveal a wide variety of Geo-Caching opportunities.

Art: Mother Nature is truly a magnificent artist whose Gallery offers an ever-changing display of magnificent works of art. Price of Admission: FREE. Children love to collect objects. A collection of pine cones, beautiful stones or shells can be turned into a beautiful 3-D shadow box display. Beautiful leaves & flowers can be pressed and incorporated into cards or suncatchers. Sketching or drawing in the outdoors is a wonderful way to pass the time, any time of day.

Playing Sports: Soccer, baseball, tennis & golf are just a few of the sports that children can participate in. Whether it’s playing on a team or individually, sports develop fine and gross motor skills, allow children to practice cooperation and sportsmanship while simultaneously fostering critical thinking and problem-solving abilities.

Sleeping under the stars: Whether it’s in your own backyard or at a campground, the outdoors at night is truly a magical place that offers a new variety of sights and sounds. Look for falling stars, view a planet through a telescope, or listen for the hoot of an owl. Even better, pitch a tent and stay a while!

Let the children be free; encourage them; let them run outside when it is raining; let them remove their shoes when they find a puddle of water; and when the grass of the meadows is damp with dew, let them run on it and trample it with their bare feet; let them rest peacefully when a tree invites them to sleep beneath the shade, let them shout and laugh when the sun wakes them in the morning” (Dr. Maria Montessori)

So…..this summer, rather than your child downloading the newest version of their favourite game, take them outside and let them download with their five senses in

Nature. Let the ‘Great Outdoors’ be your child’s new ’Play Store’.