Nature has positive developmental effects on us all, and especially children. As many Western societies struggle with childhood obesity, research shows that our psychological, social, academic and physical health is impacted by daily contact with the natural environment. Benefits of interacting with nature include improved cognitive abilities and academic performance; it can reduce symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder and increases physical activity; improves nutrition and eyesight and reduces stress. Many of us would have already experienced these effects in our own interactions with nature.
- Dress appropriately and safely for your outdoor activity – explaining why certain footwear, headwear, sunscreen, etc, is important can help your child be prepared.
- Look for what they might be interested in and source an area or activity to do with that.
- If you begin an outdoor activity, often your young children will want to be involved. If you are at the beach, build a sandcastle, and talk to them about tides and the power of water. Let them have the experience of digging and building. If you like gardening there are many opportunities to talk about plants and how they grow and how to care for them.
- A walk in your neighbourhood can be an opportunity to talk about seasons (eg. trees losing leaves or buds coming) or name natural landmarks in your area.
- Most children enjoy picnics and the opportunity to play beside a creek or river.
- Outdoor activities can be an opportunity to allow your child to explore their capabilities (under your guidance) and creativity.
- Camping is a good teacher of nature – night searches for creatures; campfires, etc, are all opportunities for your child to learn about their natural environment and how to preserve it.
- Collect things for a craft activity – leaves, shells, sticks, etc.
- When back home, read a story that might help your child reflect on their own experience of nature.
The NAEYC website has many resources which you might find helpful → Explore the Great Outdoors with Your Child
At Angel’s Paradise, outdoor playtime is an essential component in our learning program.