With the publication of such important works as “Last Child In The Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder” by Richard Louv, hopefully parents everywhere are considering the importance of nature, being in nature, and the foundational learning that occurs from spending time in nature.
I have mentioned many times that I bank on a extraordinary amount of outside time for small children under the age of seven – three to four hours a day is not too much, and some children may need many more hours. Young children need the sensory experiences of being in their bodies: pushing, pulling, tugging, lugging, digging, moving, rolling in order to establish the fundamental bodily senses as a proper foundation for later academic experiences.
If being outside is new to you or you need some ideas about what to do outside, here is a very, very popular post regarding connecting your child to nature:
Check it out if it has been awhile since you read it; it may spark some ideas anew.
We can start in infancy with our babies by letting them nap outside and getting them outside every day. Nokken in Denmark has a good model for this, see more here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/08/31/nokken-a-review-of-two-books-and-a-few-thoughts/
Toddlers, preschool-aged children and children in the grades need time outside every day with sand, water, mud, grass and sticks to just play and be in nature. Here is a wonderful back post by guest Christine Natale regarding summer outside (and inside) fun: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/06/09/guest-post-creating-a-magical-summer/
Here are a few of my personally favorite suggestions for spending time in nature for right now, this beautiful Summer season:
- The outward expansiveness of this time draws the children into nature and providing time for water play through use of walnut shell boats in a tub, play at the beach in the sand and the surf or at the lake is so important.
- · Another area to consider besides water play is the natural playscape of the garden and the berry patch. Picking berries, canning or freezing them and having the children help you in the kitchen to create delicious cobblers and pies are memorable experiences that can occur every year and build a rhythmic quality into your summer activities as a family.
- · Gardening and including children within the garden spaces by planting sunflower houses, making houses with cloths over bushes or small trees and providing general spots for the children to be hidden away from the world and meld into the flowers are wonderful opportunities to connect with nature. Do you have these spaces available for your children’s play?
- · Planting specific types of flowers to attract butterflies, bees and birds is a wonderful way to foster a close connection to the animal and plant world. Small children under the age of 7 do not need to know all the names of the plants or birds, but they will remember what animals they see and the insect friends they find in the garden! Hard, real work in the garden with your two hands and having equipment available for your children to assist you fulfills a quality in the young child of seeing real work being performed and later these gestures may come out in the child’s play. Digging for worms and grubs while you garden is part of the fun for the small child, as is running in a sprinkler afterwards!
- · As mentioned briefly above, this may also be a wonderful time to enliven your play areas both outside and inside. What areas do you have available in your yard for digging, creating sunflower houses or blanket forts? What areas do you have inside for creating art or other types of projects? If you sit down and create things yourself, you will suddenly have an audience that wants to create along with you!
If you are looking for more ideas, here are my two favorite resources for children Kindergarten aged (age 5 through older) regarding nature exercises to heighten the senses:
and this resource by Donna Simmons of Christopherus Homeschool:
These two books will give you lots of fodder for nature activities and the importance of nature.
What are you enjoying doing outside with your children at this moment?
Much love and many blessings,