Babes in the Woods© Copyright BabyClassroom
Did your mother ever tell you to "go outside and play" on a sunny summer day? Turns out, like so many things your mother told you, that was excellent advice!
In his book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder (Algonquin Books, 2005), author Richard Louv explores the importance of nature experiences for healthy child development, both cognitive and emotional, as well as the troubling fact that today's children spend far less time in natural settings than did previous generations.
According to experts, multisensory experiences in nature help build a healthy cognitive foundation as well as a healthy sense of wonder about the world in which we live. A number of studies have also shown a correlation between the amount of nature in a child's surroundings and his emotional wellbeing. Louv cites a study conducted by environmental psychologists at Cornell University, for example, which found that even a view of nature can help protect children against stress.
Kids love the great outdoors! Why not take advantage of their enthusiasm and introduce your little ones to the wonders of nature as well as some basic concepts in math, science, language and more? Consider some of these easy and enjoyable ways to share nature with your young children today:
Explore Close to Home: An old Indian saying goes, "It is better to know one mountain than to climb many." Help your child get to know a small natural area such as your backyard or a favorite park. Give her time to safely explore every nook and cranny. Talk about the changes you see from season to season and in different types of weather.
Take Discovery Walks: Scour your neighborhood or a nearby park for insects, leaves, rocks, birds and other natural treasures. Help your child build vocabulary by describing what you see and asking him to describe what he sees. Help him count, sort and categorize the items he finds by shape, color, size and other easy to recognize qualities. Encourage your child to use all his senses and describe what he sees, smells, and hears, as well as how things feel. Check out Young Scientists Science on a Nature Walk on our sister site, Discover This, for more discovery walk ideas.
Keep a Journal: Write down your child's account of your nature adventures and have her draw pictures to illustrate them. Read the journal often and compare how your experiences differ from season to season and in different areas.
Create Nature Art: In addition to drawing pictures, you and your child can make bark or leaf rubbings, experiment with vegetable "stamp" art, or collect rocks, twigs and leaves to create collages. With a GeoSafari Solargraphics Jumbo Sunprints Kit, children can explore basic photography and light concepts as they create art from sunlight.
Take a Field Trip: Visit local farms to pick fruit with your kids in the summer or to choose a pumpkin before Halloween. Get to know the animals at your local zoo. Visit state and regional parks for extended discovery walks.
Look to the Skies: Get your kids interested in astronomy by watching the moon. Show them that the moon is sometimes visible during the day and that its shape changes from week to week. You might be surprised how soon they begin to recognize that the moon has phases and become interested in other celestial objects as well.
Dig In: Get your kids involved in backyard gardening. Toddlers and preschoolers love to dig in the dirt, plant seeds, water plants and watch them grow. As a bonus, most little ones enjoy eating the veggies they grow themselves!
Bring Nature Indoors: Continue exploring plants, animals, weather and seasons when you come inside by sharing nature-related books and DVDs. Familiarize your child with some of the sights and sounds you might experience on a discovery walk, and talk about what you see in the books or DVDs that you've already seen outside.
Encouraging kids to explore nature offers benefits beyond compare: The multisensory experiences foster healthy cognitive development. The excitement of exploration teaches kids how much fun it is to be active. And an appreciation for the natural world can lead our children to become guardians of the fragile planet on which we live.
At Baby Classroom and our sister site, Discover This we love to get outdoors and explore the wonders of nature with our kids. Here are some of our favorite nature-related products to continue the exploration and discovery when you come back indoors.
- Baby Einstein Nature Discovery Cards
- Baby Einstein Discovering the Sounds of Nature Busy Book
- Baby Einstein Matching Musical Blocks
- Mozart Music is Everywhere Board Book
- Baby Monet Discovering the Seasons DVD
- Young Scientists Science On a Nature Walk
- GeoSafari Solargraphics Jumbo Sunprints Kit
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