The intention of Skipping Stones is to enrich the experiences of children and adults as they explore the outdoors. In writing this blog, I realized that the lines of what constitutes nature may be blurry. For some, nature is about experiencing true wilderness adventures, hiking trails where landscapes are seldom touched by human hands. For others, the nature experience may be so new that the idea of spending any amount of time outside is an unknown and somewhat scary idea. Wherever you are on your nature journey, there is always opportunity to grow and deepen your experience. Whether it is hiking and camping as a family, or simply growing a potted plant for the first time, nature is complex and inviting, bursting with surprises and possibilities.
Author Scott Sampson, who wrote How to Raise A Wild Child, divides nature into three categories that fall roughly along a continuum: wild, domestic and technological. Wild nature exists, for the most part, outside the influence of human interference. This includes places such as our great National Parks, like Glacier National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but also includes things in our own backyards like robins, hummingbirds and chipmunks. In my opinion, it is in these wild experiences that we ultimately learn our sense of place and gain a greater understanding of who we are as caretakers of the earth.
Domestic nature refers to nature that is under human control. This includes places like parks, gardens, farms and zoos. Home aquariums, pets and houseplants also fall in this category. Although not wild, this type of nature lends itself to many educational and valuable experiences. It brings us into contact with aspects of nature that deepen our connection to the natural world. Both children and adults can gain great enjoyment and therapeutic rewards from domestic nature. A growing number of college students seek relief from stress through pet therapy. Aquariums calm anxious patients in doctor’s waiting rooms. Parks and playgrounds provide places for physical activity and social interaction, while gardens provide abundant sensory input.
While wild and domestic nature involve things that are not human creations, technological nature provides yet another interface for nature interaction. Technological nature is any human fabricated representation of the natural world. It includes not only documentaries, books, paintings and field guides but also phone apps and websites that educate about nature. While technology has a precarious relationship with nature, its influence cannot be dismissed in this day and age. As a nature blogger, I struggle with a love/hate relationship of technology. While I wholeheartedly feel that immersion in natural places like forests and stream-sides is incredibly nurturing to child and adult, alike, I do feel that there is much to learn from books and documentaries, and blogs :-). For instance, this past weekend my family and I ventured to The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia to see the National Parks IMAX movie. It was thrilling to see the epic landscapes of our country, I have definitely added Yosemite to my bucket list of places to visit! Besides things involving screens, children’s books abound that help readers escape into outdoor adventures or learn about gardens, animals or forests.
So, the bottom line is that nature can be experienced in a multitude of ways. The real question is not what is nature, but what are you doing to deepen your nature experience? Just as a child matures and expands their zone of exploration to increasing distances, so too can the family expand their nature exploration. How are you taking the next step in bringing more nature into the lives of your family members so they can reap the many benefits that it provides? Skipping Stones will provide you with experiences from finding the best hiking trail, to locating unique playgrounds, to making a craft to decorate your first garden. Stay tuned as I bring you opportunities in all domains of nature so that you can grow stronger kids, families and communities.
Do one thing that sets you on a course toward wild nature - Whether it is checking out some books from the library on backyard birds or taking a more adventurous hike. Make a move toward wildness!
Share your nature experiences on the Skipping Stones Facebook page.
I always eagerly anticipate gardening season but it has been a cold and rainy spring where I live! It has been hard to get my garden started this year but I am planning to start this weekend. Gardening is a fantastic way to introduce your child to nature. And a great way for you to get some outdoor time too. Today I want to share with you some of the amazing benefits of gardening, along with some simple, projects for the beginning (or seasoned!) gardener.
Some of the many benefits of gardening include:
Provides Education – By allowing children to participate in gardening from seed to plant, they can learn the basics of seed growth and what plants need to thrive. How a Seed Grows by Helene J. Jordan is a great beginner book to supplement your gardening (and great for rainy days, too!).
Fosters Responsibility – Taking care of a plants takes work. It is a great way to introduce jobs. Kids of all ages can plant seeds, water, and pull weeds. Not only can kids learn how to take care of family plants, by learning how things grow, they can also see their part in the bigger picture of nature. Gardening can be a first step towards learning to be good stewards of their environment.
Provides Diverse SENSORY Input –This is a particular favorite of mine! Kids need sensory input of all kinds to foster healthy development. Getting their hands in the dirt, gives great tactile input (and builds healthy immune systems – Really!). By selecting herbs and flowers, they can experience a variety of smells. Fruits and vegetables taste great right out of the garden. Beautiful colors are a welcome sight when you plant easy growing flowers, such as zinnias. Let’s not forget hearing – how about making some simple wind chimes or listening to the variety of birds and bugs that may visit your garden! Follow the link to make this adorable set of wind chimes. The final two senses that are often unknown – proprioception (awareness of where body is in space) and vestibular sense (balance) are challenged, as well, through digging, bending and reaching.
Promotes healthy eating –Studies show that kids are less likely to be picky and more likely to eat fruits and vegetables if they are grown at home. Who can’t resist eating a tomato right off the vine?!
Improves mental health – Scientific evidence abounds that show the benefits of gardening for all ages. Participating in gardening has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, decrease aggressive behavior, improve attention and increase empathy. For more information on this check out the book, Therapeutic Gardens by Daniel Winterbottom and Amy Wagenfeld
Fun Gift Idea!
Looking for something different and creative?
How about making a gardening basket?! A packet of seeds, a trowel and set of kids gardening gloves is sure to be a hit. To personalize it, paint the child's name on the trowel with acrylic paint. Put it in a little bucket from the dollar store and you are good to go!
Here are some fun and ideas to get your family start gardening!
This weeks challenge: Plan a garden activity with your child or grandchild. Begin with a visit to a local nursery or garden center.
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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