by Sheila Carroll
Does it seem odd that we might need reasons for enjoying the outdoors? Nature is good for children. This seems fundamental and hardly necessary to point out. Yet, in recent decades parents have little by little eliminated unstructured outdoor time for their children. They opt instead to carpool to team sports, martial arts classes or other pastimes that do not involve direct experience with nature.
Worse yet, children spend an average of 6.5 hours a day with television, computers and video games. Research has shown that a child is six times more likely to play a video game than ride a bike.
Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, says that children spend approximately 15 minutes outdoors each week. Louv points to the rise in attention-deficit disorders and suggests that corresponding decrease in outdoor time may be part of the problem. Why is it so important for children to be outdoors? On NicheReviewed.com they make a great argument about the lost way of transport in America, the mountain bike!
Here are five reasons to get outdoors with your children:
1) Strong bodies
Vigorous outdoor play stretches muscles which signal the body to build more. Play improves hand-eye coordination. Vitamin D, dubbed the sunshine vitamin because that is where we get most of this essential element, is needed for the uptake of calcium in our bodies. Regular experience of the rhythms of nature lowers the blood pressure and makes the body ready for rest.
2) Strong minds
Close study of insects, plants animals builds the basis of scientific inquiry. Albert Einstein, the greatest mind of the twentieth century, said that if we look deeply into we will understand other things better in the light of it.
Direct experience of nature is essential to optimal cognitive development Cognitive development is the growth of perception, memory, language, concepts, and thinking in children. Certain kinds of physical movement and experiences which can only be found outdoors help a child mature with all his abilities.
3) Emotional health
Time outdoor gives a child a perspective on the day’s events, reduces anxiety and stress of sitting in school for long hours. Learning to care for something of the natural world—plant, animal or insect—teaches caring and considering the needs of others.
Learning to climb a tree, make a snow man, tunnel through leaves, get lost and find your way home, build a fort, find a salamander under a log, watch a sunset till it’s all the way down—all these build confidence in our ability to overcome a fear, accept a challenge, or learn to be quiet. Without these experiences we tend to feel we are weak or able to function in only certain types of situations.
5) A capacity for wonder
Rachel Carson, in The Sense of Wonder, wrote that a sense of wonder has something far more powerful at work than mere delight. It gives us reserves of strength, a sense of proportion, and a deep abiding desire to know more. Wonder open our hearts and minds and keeps us from being jaded about life.
So, go outdoors with your children—share the discovery of nature. A child learns to spend time outdoors through the companionship of an adult. He learns how to respond, explore, and find his way with someone who has the same curiosity as himself. The adult, of course, has the pleasure of re-discovery.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Sheila Carrol is the founder of Living Books Curriculum, a home education curriculum based on the teachings and philosophies of Charlotte Mason, a British educator from the last century. The curriculum packages provide instruction in the traditional subjects such as history, language arts, and science and incorporate classic literature, nature studies, narration, storytelling, and the use of local resources to enhance the educational experience. For information, go to: http://charlottemasonhomeschooling.com/