Benefits of Nature for Children

“Never be within doors when you can rightly be without.” – Charlotte Mason

My family spend the day at Coopers Rock State Park on Monday and my daughters and I got in a conversation about Charlotte Mason and the benefits of nature. It wasn’t a new or original conversation for us. It’s one we have repeated, renewed and re-digested over and over. In this world of technology and sports, the benefits of the great outdoors is being missed and discounted by many.

Nature-Deficit Disorder

“Nature-deficit disorder is not a formal diagnosis, but a way to describe the psychological, physical and cognitive costs of human alienation from nature, particularly for children in their vulnerable developing years.” Richard Louv via www.psychologytoday.com

Children from hard places (such as an institution or multiple foster homes) need to be introduced to nature in a new way. Fears must be calmed. Kids need to feel safe and they need to learn to play in creative ways.

“Nature inspires creativity in a child by demanding visualization and the full use of the senses.”-Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods

 

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*Pics from our Coopers Rock Day

So, why take these nature deficient children outside? Why not keep them inside where it is safe and introduce them to some other advantages they had missed, like technology. Gaming, computers, internet, DVDS and not so dangerous occupations? Most importantly, nature has healing and restorative powers. The biggest issue these kids need to overcome is their faulty foundation concerning nature.

Just being outside does not give a child the creative playtime that they need for optimal development.

Most kids get the foundation of physical laws when they are toddlers. When a tow or three-year old climbs the first branch of a pine tree and fall six or eight inches, she gains a healthy respect for gravity. When a toddler eats a few bites of sand or dirt covered rocks, she sees minerals and elements for what they are- NOT FOOD. When a five year-old wades in the stream and slips on a moss-covered rock, he appreciates and knows intimately what slippery means. He may walk away with a couple of scrapes and some wet clothing. These experiences are priceless and, met with the proper reaction from parents, build a healthy respect and love of the outdoors. When kids are NOT introduced to nature at a young age, (like my adopted kids), there will be misconceptions, fears and bigger or more serious mishaps.

Fear should not keep your child from nature, from experimenting with its restorative powers, using all the senses, washing away all their cares, and developing a healthy respect for the laws of nature. It is especially important for children from hard places to get outdoors and experience creative play.

 “Do not send them; if it is anyway possible, take them.” – Charlotte Mason

If your child is struggling with nature deficit disorder or has some major misconceptions about nature because he was an institution or busy just trying to survive in multiple placements, start small. Their fears may not seem real to you, but they are real to them. Go outside holding their hand. It may take weeks or months of this before the child feels safe enough to let go (true story). Watch the fireflies with them. Talk about it. Wade in the creek with them. Talk about it. Throw rocks in the river with them. Talk about it. Build a dam in the creek. Talk about it. Throw sticks in the creek and watch them float down stream. Talk about it. Jump over things. Talk about it.

“Given a chance, a child will bring the confusion of the world to the woods, wash it in the creek, turn it over to see what lives on the unseen side of that confusion.”-Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods

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