Saturday, February 18, 2017
Why Children NEED Nature
"There is no description, no image in any book that is capable of replacing the sight of real trees, and all the life to be found around them, in a real forest. Something emanates from those trees which speaks to the soul, something no book, no museum is capable of giving."-Maria Montessori
I've been thinking a lot over the past few days about how much children need time spent in nature- and how many aren't getting enough. I've observed D (2.5 years) and realized how much happier he is outside- running, climbing, walking in the woods, gardening in our EarthBoxes, and working on his compost bucket. Nature is his happy place.
Our 6 month old is already shaping up to be the same way- today I couldn't get him to settle down for a nap despite lots of rocking and nursing. He was so fussy. I finally got him to relax and fall asleep like this:
He immediately calmed down and relaxed. I don't think this is limited to boys. Girls love and need nature as well. There has been quite a bit of interest in the decline of play in preschools but I think equally important is the decline of children being exposed to nature- and not just playgrounds with rubberized flooring. REAL nature. Walking on trails, tending plants, observing animals.
I can't recommend Richard Louv's book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder enough! I have observed in my own children the absolute need to be in nature. I have seen the difference it makes in their ability to self-regulate and to handle sensory issues. I think this need is more than just a physical need for exercise and gross motor movement- there is definitely an emotional and spiritual element.
Louv correlates Nature-Deficit Disorder with the rise of childhood obesity, depression, attention deficit disorder and suicide. Over the past few months I think he may be on to something. As I've worked to create more nature experiences for D I have felt my own emotional well-being improve. It has been good for my soul.
At 2.5 D can correctly identify oak, pine, palm, and magnolia trees. He can point to an acorn and tell you that squirrels and deer will eat it. He observes our bird feeder. He will point out where wild hogs have been rooting. He's learning these things not by sitting with books or worksheets but through authentic experiences and conversations in nature. It is an organic and holistic building of schema that is child-led. He is learning with his whole body and all of his senses. I feel like I have become a better educator through observing him.
My hope is that D and K will not be the last children in the woods. I fully intend to commit to spreading this message as much as possible- that children NEED nature and it is our job (and pleasure!) as parents to create these experiences for them.
Edit: Here are some of the other books on the topic I've added to my reading list. I hope to review them in the future!