The transformative power of getting closer to nature.
To a child who hasn't spent time outside, a tree is just a tree.
But to a child who has experienced the outdoors a tree is so much more. It is:
Home to wildlife.
A hiding place.
A shady respite
Food for woodpeckers.
A balance beam
A lookout tower
Highway for ants
The options for interaction are limitless.
A relationship with nature is like any other relationship, As an onlooker, you can have knowledge about something, a list of facts, but until you take the time and effort to have honest to goodness encounters, you don't really grow any deeper in understanding. As that relationship grows, you grow in comfort, empathy and understanding. Benefits are mutual. It can be quite transformative.
Nature is no different. I believe it has transforming power for our children, ourselves, our families and our communities. By giving our children opportunities to experience nature firsthand, they not only become more creative, better decision makers and physically stronger, they become more invested in taking care of the land and all that it holds. Comfort with nature grows. Rather than fear, they develop a sense of conncection.
The interconnection becomes part of who they are and what they care about. It is up to us as parents, caregivers and educators to introduce children to nature at a young age so that they can build upon that relationship. Starting young is best, however, it is never too late to begin. Don't give up if your child resists being outdoors at first. New relationships take time. Before you know it, they will be begging for more. Often, now, it is my kids who initiate taking a walk or going on a hike. We all benefit from their developping friendship with the outdoors.
Not only does connectivity with nature change children at the stage where they are, it paves the way for their future self. Toddlers who play in the grass and feel the wind in their face are much more likely to grow into curious kids who explore, dig in the dirt and climb trees. Kids who have run through streams and built forts in the woods are more likely to become adults who care about the envirnoment and want to preserve it for their children. Teens who experience the calming effects of a walk in the woods, transform into adults who value the calming aspect of spending time in nature.
Nature changes the way we experience things. The invitation is waiting. Create the time and space in your family's schedule to have an encounter with nature. You won't be disappointed!
Some fun ways to build a nature relationship this week:
Children really do follow our lead as parents
As a parent who is passionate about the outdoors, I sometimes get disheartened when my children grumble about getting outside.
"It's too cold."
. . . . .or the most offensive of all . . . "I need to finish this game on my phone."
But, then there are those moments when you realize they get it. And it makes it all worth it. This week I have a special guest blogger - my son. A few weeks ago he had an open-ended creative writing assignment for his English class. When he brought home his finished work, I melted. You have to understand that this essay is a victory in so many ways. For a boy who has struggled to read and write and express himself for much of his schooling, this essay is the beautiful fruit of much labor. It stems from a continuing journey of development and finding a place in the outdoors when many other places have not been welcoming.
Read it and be encouraged and see that, as he says, "the outdoors is for everyone." The grammar and spelling may not be perfect. The paragraphs may not be indented. But it is a picture of progress and a reflection of the joy that being outside can bring. Read and enjoy.
Printed with permission from my son.
Hi! I'm Ann - mother of seven, grandmother of two and occupational therapist. My mission is to provide the support families need to raise thriving children and to help you build a family environment that supports healthy development and a pathway to success.
Great blogs to check out:
Rain or Shine Mamma
Children & Nature Network
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