It’s a sad sign of our times that children are spending less and less time playing outdoors in nature. The lure of technology, busy lives and a lack of natural spaces are often blamed for this trend, but there’s really no excuse. All technology has an off switch, lives can be made simpler and, even in the city, there are usually parks or wayside spaces nearby.
It’s easy to get a child to spend a sunny summer day at the beach, but other seasons and outdoor settings seldom have the same pull. The hassle of getting a child dressed for the winter cold can be discouraging, but the health benefits alone are worth the effort.
As a mother of three and grandmother of two, I’ve seen for myself the benefits of getting children one-on-one with nature. Confronted with the majesty of the great outdoors, a child quickly realizes that they’re not the center of the universe. Bad moods are quickly abandoned as the focus shifts to the natural world, whether in the form of a sunset, a forest or a daisy.
Years ago, while homeschooling my sons, I saw how going outdoors allowed them to burn off energy while refreshing their minds from a morning of book work. As a preschool teacher I see how 3 to 5 year olds delight in simply running and jumping outdoors and are thrilled at the discovery of a squirrel or pinecone in their surroundings.
However, over the years, I’ve also seen children too unaccustomed to the outdoors shrink back at the touch of evergreen needles and wince at the sunshine. It doesn’t have to be this way. Every child has the potential to be comfortable in nature. Some may even find their better selves there.
This post is the first in a series aimed at getting children outdoors. Next time, I’ll offer an easy way to get a resistant child interested regardless of the season.
Text and photos copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012