As spring tries to blow its way in its definitely time to venture out more often and for longer. The chill in the air is less so, and as Anna has reminded me so many times, “it’s not the wrong weather, but the wrong sort of clothing.” The small pond, and I mean small, in the garden has been swamped by the annual frog spawning and in the last week or so the tadpoles have started hatching and doing the usual squiggle and squirm, which has really delighted the children. In fact not only the children, but myself too, and not because I have a love for amphibian birthing events, but to see the excitement as the kids experience new life emerging right before their eyes. The simple joy at realising that all these tiny tadpoles have emerged from this multitude of eggs. It’s also a fantastic way to learn about the seasons, what spring means to us and the wildlife around us. A time of new birth and reawakening. I tend to think of it as nature’s revolution and I’m thankful it happens every year.
Get out there and experience it
I do feel very fortunate to have this pond near our front door that is easily accessible for the kids to witness the seasonal changes, however it’s only a microcosm of the world around us. Exposing children to the outdoors and venturing into wild places can be enormously beneficial to their understanding of the world. In fact I can’t stress enough the value of children experiencing their natural world and what those simple pleasures can do for children’s wellbeing. Richard Louv, in his book, Last child in the woods, refers to Nature-Deficit Disorder. A self-explanatory term that is not a medical diagnosis, but a real cultural dilemma facing society today, and more so the English-speaking world. In his book he describes the cost to humans from disengaging with nature, how it affects our senses, and our emotional and physical health. He mentions recent studies suggesting that by exposing children to nature it can reduce levels of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and that “it can improve all children’s cognitive abilities and resistance to negative stresses and depression.” All this and it’s free, as free as the air we breathe on a wild and windy moor. Let them explore and discover new interests for the sake of humanities wellbeing.
Another wonderful resource that tos and fros from the bookshelf is, Nature’s playground – Activities, crafts and games to encourage children to get outdoors. It offers plenty of advice for getting outdoors and exploring. The great thing about experiencing nature is that it needn’t be tackling Snowdonia with a 5 year old. It can be as simple as getting drenched in a summer thunderstorm. Let them have fun and experience a real event.
Explore wild places
Nature’s playground is brimming with useful advice and ideas on what to do when exploring the outdoors. A few pointers we always try to stick to are that;
- Children should be encouraged to learn and so it should be about them leading the venture. Let them take you on their adventure or grand expedition that they have planned, get friends involved too.
- Be prepared for change, not only the weather, but the adventure too. If a fish finding expedition turns into a game of pooh sticks with Daddy losing and up against outrageous odds, so what?
- If you’re prepared for the weather then no doubt you’ll be prepared for soaked children. Let them immerse themselves in everything around them, from getting soaked, to covered in mud, to ending up black and blue from gorging on blackberries.
- With all this encouragement and enthusiasm flowing through their veins it is sometimes necessary to offer guidance, such as not squashing every moving thing in sight and to respect each living creature. That respect should go a little further too in not screaming and shouting at the tops of their voices. There is a time and place for that and exploring nature is not one of them.
- Most of all have fun, be interested and enjoy yourselves.
Book resources and recommendations
Last Child in the Woods – Saving our children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.
Richard Louv. Published by Atlantic Books.
Nature’s playground – Activities, crafts and games to encourage children to get outdoors.
Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield. Published by Francis Lincoln Ltd.
The Genius of Natural Childhood – Secrets of Thriving Children.
Sally Goddard Blythe. Published by Hawthorn Press.