There is a growing consensus that children benefit immensely from being in the lap of nature. The close interaction with nature helps in their mental, physical, social, intellectual and spiritual growth.
Learning that brings children closer to nature
It is becoming more and more popular to have small and controlled day excursions or 2-day outings to forests to introduce children to nature. Children tend to spend the most of their day in their day care center or play school franchise; therefore, these facilities should be well equipped to bring children closer to nature. There are many ways to do so. My son’s playschool has a large garden with all kinds of perennials, annuals, shrubs and small trees. They also grow their own food in a small way.
The newer age schools are attuned to the positive impact of nature. Parents today are aware that children are calmer and more responsive when they are in close contact with nature. The benefits of communing with nature are many.
- Children tend to be healthier physically as they are more active. There are fewer pollutants and so the children are less prone to allergies and immunity related problems.
- Learning in the vicinity of nature enhances creative play. Creativity, problem-solving skills, and intellectual development shows a marked improvement.
- Are you a parent who is overly zealous of your child’s academic performance? Well, it should hearten you that children with outdoor classrooms perform better in class. Tests show a remarkable improvement in the science scores of children who study outdoors.
- There is a positive influence on the cognitive skills of the child. The early introduction to the outdoors enhances cognitive abilities. Not only proximity but also the view of the natural landscape enhances the child’s ability to focus.
- Does your child show signs of stress or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)? Being outdoors has been proven to have a calming effect on such children. Your child will show an affinity to locations with greater greenery and access to natural play areas. Studies have shown a significant reduction in stress in preschoolers who have access to green playgrounds.
- If your child’s school has a vegetable patch which children tend on their own, they tend to eat healthy and more nutritionally balanced meals.
- Your child learns patience and self-discipline when in close contact with forests and nature in general.
- And last but not the least your child becomes socially adept and forms close bonds with his peers.
What can preschools do to garner these benefits for their students?
Preschools form the base of a child’s basic personality and social adeptness. The best preschools arrange frequent trips for young learners in a controlled forest environment. I have found that my daughter returns from her day-long excursion to the nature park tired but happy. The physical exercise has taken her attention away from the TV and the tablet (which she was hooked to) and has also made her sportier and fun loving. She dances more and will not miss her outing at the neighborhood park for anything in this world.
To end with:
In the words of Rainer Maria Rilke – “If we surrendered to earth’s intelligence we could rise up rooted, like trees.”
The least the best preschools can do is to create a green patch in the campus and encourage the early learners to play in the dirt and take turns at gardening. Once they’re out and about for their nature walk ask them to:
- Find and collect pebbles and shells.
- Touch and smell the flowers.
- Take a closer look at things with their binoculars or magnifying glass.
- Enjoy the sight of birds soaring in the sky.
- Draw their favorite flowers with their crayons or pastel colors.
- Enjoy a game of ‘hide and seek’ under the supervision of an adult.
- Sit in a group and share their nature walk experience with each other.
PS: Dear early educators break the moulds of classroom learning pedagogy and take advantage of a sunny afternoon to plan a spontaneous nature expedition that won’t just guide you and your pupils on the path to learning, but in doing so will also create some fond memories for all of you.