What a Connection to Nature Can Do For Your Child's Health
When tensions are high in the house, there is one sure fire way to restore peace, regain sanity and stay grounded, all while spending time together as a family. The best part is that this solution is absolutely free! The answer, at least in our family has been to go outside. I noticed from the time that my daughter was an infant nothing calmed her down more than being outside. Whether we were taking a walk, playing in the yard, or relaxing a the beach, being outside in nature has always been a stress reliever. That's why my husband and I are constantly looking for new parks, nature trails and outdoor spaces to explore with our daughter. Recently, we visited the Weinberg Nature Center in Scarsdale, NY. Its beautiful nature trails and museum, offered the perfect place to have a day trip learning about and interacting with wild animals and gaining all the benefits of being out in nature.All of the pictures contained in this post are from our trip to the nature center.
We are so fortunate to have so many nature trails, parks and outdoor places for children to explore, here in Westchester. As it turns out, other than the sheer joy of getting away from it all, there are so many reasons why taking children outside is so beneficial. Here are a few of my favorite reasons.
Expand Their Minds
Going on a nature walk can be a great way for children to learn about the world around them. They are given the opportunity to use their five senses to experience things they never have before, from felling the grass between their toes, to watching the clouds float through the sky, every moment in nature is a learning experience. As my daughter and I walked the trails at the Weinberg center we were lucky enough to hear a woodpecker tapping in the trees, crickets singing in the grass, and chipmunks chasing each other through the leaves. Throughout the hiking trail there were signs and descriptions of the various plants growing within the nature reserve and my daughter and I learned how to identify poison ivy and other plants on our path. We even felt the various textures of bark on the trees on the trail. For both of us our trip turn out to be a multi sensory learning experience.
Increase Mental Well-Being
As I mentioned above, being outside in nature reduces stress and improves psychological well being. Journalist Richard Louv had developed the term “Nature deficit disorder” which describes the health consequences of being detached from nature. Louv believes that attention deficit disorder, obesity, depression, and low creativity are all symptoms associated with deprivation from being outdoors. Research shows that as children are given the opportunity to think and explore in the fresh air, they become more imaginative, creative and cooperative. They are better able to focus, their energy increases and they just feel good.
Improve Physical Health
Getting children outside and moving is a great way to keep them in great shape. They are given the opportunity to walk, run and climb in open spaces, in an environment that is exciting new and unstructured. It is a space where children are allowed to explore and discover things that interest them.
Foster an Appreciation for Nature and Wild Life.
Outside of personal health, giving children an appreciation for nature helps to save the planet. Forestry Engineer, Baba Dioum, explained this fact best when he said, “In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.” We need to teach our children how to reconnect with nature so that they will understand their responsibility to take care of it. If we teach our children to love their world, they will be more likely to make choices that will protect it.
Not sure what to do once you get outside? Try these activities to help focus your trip and allow your child to connect with nature.
1- Ask your child to notice things in her environment. Ask her how many birds she can count flying through the sky or how many dandelions she can find on the ground.
2- Give your child a bucket and ask her to collect special items outside, like pine cones, leaves and stones. When she gets home find a special place to display her treasures.
3- Take a blanket and lie outside while observing the clouds in the sky. Ask your child what shapes she sees and if the cloud shapes remind her of anything.
4- Read books with your child about nature topics, so that they can learn more about the plants and animals that they observe outside.
5- Bring a camera with you on your nature walk so that you can take pictures of what your child sees, so that she can have a memory of all of the wonderful things that she has seen on her adventure.
It is so simple, but so beneficial. Help you children to appreciate being outdoors and watch the difference in their overall well-being.