In a world buzzing with screens and technology, the role of nature’s impact on child development may go unnoticed, but getting your little one outside is more important than ever. Let’s explore how the great outdoors benefits children and find fun, easy ways to tap into nature’s positive impact on child development.
The benefits of nature’s impact on child development
Increased physical activity
Studies have found that the more time kids spend outside, the more active they tend to be.
Playing outside naturally gets kids moving more. They run, jump, and play games that are not only fun but also great for their health. For example, a game of hide-and-seek in the backyard involves lots of physical movement, which is vital for growing bodies. Climbing on playground equipment or playing a casual game of soccer helps develop their muscles, coordination, and overall fitness.
Outdoor activities also encourage a love for being active. Kids who are used to outdoor play are more likely to enjoy sports and other physical activities as they grow up. Outdoor play helps kids to be naturally more active and healthy, making exercise a fun and regular part of their lives.
Enhances language and communication skills
Outdoor play can also have a positive impact on children’s language development and communication skills. Studies have shown children use significantly more words when playing outside compared to indoors, suggesting that outdoor play stimulates more diverse language use.
The outdoor environment is rich with opportunities for children to describe what they see, feel, and experience, which naturally enriches their language. For instance, a child at the park might talk about the texture of the sand, the height of the trees, or the colour of the flowers. This not only adds new words to their vocabulary but also helps them articulate thoughts and ideas more clearly.
Can lower stress and anxiety
The tranquillity and beauty of natural environments provide a stark contrast to the often hectic and structured indoor settings that children commonly experience.
For example, a walk in the park or time spent in a garden can help children unwind and feel more at peace. The simple acts of listening to birdsong, watching the clouds, or feeling the grass under their feet can be incredibly soothing.
Nature’s ability to reduce stress and anxiety is not just psychological. The physical activity associated with playing outdoors – like running, climbing, or even the act of digging in the sand – releases endorphins, the body’s natural stress-relieving and mood-boosting chemicals.
Without the confines of walls or the structure of indoor toys, children are free to use their imagination to transform a stick into a magic wand, a pile of leaves into a fortress, or a playground into a jungle. This kind of imaginative play is crucial for developing creative thinking skills.
The outdoors is a canvas that changes with the seasons, offering new textures, colours, and experiences. Children might build a fairy house in the spring, create leaf art in the autumn, or invent games in the snow. Each of these activities requires them to think creatively, using the resources available to them in nature.
Improves problem solving skills
The unpredictable and ever-changing nature of outdoor environments offers a variety of scenarios where children need to use their judgement and creativity to find solutions.
For instance, when encountering a stream, a child must consider the best way to cross it – whether it’s finding the shallowest part, using stepping stones, or even building a makeshift bridge. These experiences teach children to evaluate options and understand cause-and-effect relationships.
Building a stable sandcastle, as another example, isn’t just a fun activity; it’s a lesson in physics and engineering. Children learn about concepts like stability, weight distribution, and material properties in a hands-on, practical way. They experiment, adjust their strategies based on the results, and learn from their mistakes – all fundamental aspects of effective problem-solving.
These problem-solving activities in nature often occur in a social context, adding an additional layer of complexity and learning. Children learn to negotiate, cooperate, and share ideas with others to solve a common problem, enhancing their collaborative problem-solving skills.
Promotes sensory development
Nature is like a sensory wonderland for kids, touching all their senses in exciting ways. The outdoors is full of different things to feel – the rough tree bark, the soft grass, and everything in between. These experiences are great for helping kids learn about and make sense of different textures.
Listening to nature’s symphony – the leaves rustling, birds singing, and streams flowing – is not just calming but also sharpens their hearing. Visually, the great outdoors is a burst of colours and shapes, constantly changing and moving, which is fantastic for boosting kids’ observational skills.
The smells of nature, like flowers or earth after rain, and the taste of things like fresh fruits straight from a plant, make the sensory adventure complete. All these experiences are more than just fun; they play a big part in helping kids grow their brains and understand their feelings better.
Child development flourishes through a connection with nature, creating a wholesome environment that nurtures growth and exploration.
Ideas for play and activities outside with kids
How can you bring more nature into your child’s life? The benefits of nature’s impact on child development can be experienced with activities as simple as a daily walk in the park, planting a small garden, or even just observing the night sky. The key is to make it fun and engaging. It doesn’t require grand adventures; even a small patch of green can be a wonderland for a young explorer.
For Babies and Toddlers
Nature mobiles: Create mobiles with safe, natural items like feathers and leaves. Hang them where your baby can observe them, stimulating visual tracking and attention.
Gentle nature walks: Carry or stroll your baby through different natural environments, like a quiet beach or a forest trail, letting them experience varied natural sights and sounds.
Nature discovery blanket: Lay a blanket outside and let your baby experience the natural world through touch, smell, and sight. Simple objects like leaves, soft grass, or flowers can be fascinating for them.
Nature-themed obstacle course: Set up a simple obstacle course in your backyard or a park using logs, stones, and bushes. It’s great for physical development and imaginative play.
Garden treasure baskets: Fill a basket with safe, garden-related items like small watering cans, non-toxic plants, and soft soil. This encourages sensory exploration and curiosity about nature.
Cloud storytelling: Lie on the grass and watch the clouds. Encourage your child to imagine stories or shapes in the cloud formations, stimulating creativity and visual interpretation.
For Young School Age Children
Nature Photography: Give them a camera to capture what they find interesting in nature. This can develop an eye for detail and a deeper appreciation of natural beauty.
Build a fairy garden: Use natural materials to create a small fairy garden in a corner of your yard. This encourages creativity and a sense of wonder about the natural world.
Bird watching with a twist: Combine bird watching with drawing. Have children observe birds and then draw them from memory, enhancing observation and artistic skills.
Gardening together: Involve them in simple gardening activities, like planting seeds or watering plants. It teaches responsibility and the basics of botany.
Rock decorating: Collect rocks and decorate them with paint or markers. It’s a fun art activity that combines creativity with natural elements.
Insect exploration: Go on a mini-beast hunt, looking for harmless insects. It’s a great way to learn about both biodiversity and the ecosystem.
For Older Children and Teens
Nature journaling: Encourage them to keep a journal of their experiences and thoughts while exploring nature, which can deepen their connection to the environment and enhance writing skills.
Environmental volunteering: Embracing nature’s impact on child development can benefit the environment too! Participate in local environmental conservation activities, like tree planting or beach clean-ups. This fosters a sense of responsibility and a deeper understanding of ecological issues.
Stargazing and constellation mapping: Spend nights looking at stars and identifying constellations. In addition to being educational, it’s also a way to connect with the vastness of the universe.
Adventure sports: Encourage activities like hiking, mountain biking, or kayaking, suitable for their age. These sports are great for physical fitness and experiencing nature’s thrill.
Multi-Sensory Learning at Shichida Australia
At Shichida Australia, we believe in the power of multi-sensory learning, especially when it comes to embracing nature. Our approach goes beyond the classroom, encouraging activities that foster observation, pattern recognition and mindfulness – all crucial in stimulating a child’s diverse cognitive abilities.
In line with these principles, we encourage regular outdoor activities and play as a rewarding way for parents and children to spend quality time together. Being outdoors, in nature’s kaleidoscope of colours, textures, and life forms, is an opportunity for growth and discovery providing kids with the essential experiences that only nature can offer. Suggested ideas for outdoor play and activities include nature observation expeditions, reflective storytelling, collecting items like stones or acorns for maths games, and drawing pictures of nature.
Balancing structured classroom learning, the nurturing home environment, and the unscripted lessons of nature is integral to a comprehensive childhood, nurturing cognitive advancement, emotional fortitude and a profound admiration for the natural world.
So, let’s step outside and let nature do its wonderful work in shaping our children’s future!