This guest post is written by Ernie Allison, a grandfather and nature writer who tries to get his family outside as much as possible. He believes all aspects of life can be used as learning experiences. As spring approaches and the weather warms up, you’ll find him outside at his bird feeder trying to improve his photography skills.
It is no new thing that spending time outside is good for you. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of roaming through the woods, spying on spiders, and hunting for frogs. Yet, as we become adults, many of us spend more and more time indoors, and that extends to our children as well. More kids are learning about trees on their Ipads rather than climbing in one.
Now, I have nothing against technology. I think that it’s a great tool to enhance our children’s education, and can definitely be used in home schooling. But it should be used as a supplement, not a replacement. Kids need time outside- time to run and explore and observe. Below are some of the benefits that nature has on children specifically, but these are all applicable to adults as well.
Power of Observation
The outside world has so much in it, so much to notice. You can visit a river, a forest, or even a park every day and never see the same thing. Things are growing, moving, changing. Animals travel through, leaving signs of their presence.
The outdoors is a great classroom for kids because they can learn so much just by noticing things. You can point things out to them, but most likely you won’t have to. They will ask questions about why animals behave the way they do, about how trees get so big. Their curiosity gets piqued.
And here is where the learning comes in. Some answers will be straightforward, but sometimes it will be better if you don’t feed them the answers. Ask them what they think the answer could be. This not only makes them learn to think for themselves, but it also inspires creativity. They must think outside the box to come up with answers that they’ve never thought of before.
You can encourage this natural learning by taking field trips or by staying at home. Provide nuts for squirrels and let your kids observe their behavior. Put out a bird feeder or a seed box so that they can learn wild bird species and habits. Use these opportunities for lessons on animals, migration, and any other subjects that weave themselves in there.
Today’s children are suffering from all sorts of ailments that were not so prevalent years ago. Obsesity rages on; it seems like an ADD diagnosis is as common as blue eyes, and parents are loading their children up on supplements to substitute for the nutrients they’re not getting.
Spending time outdoors is not an easy fix, but it does help in the minimizing of a lot of problems. Outside, kids are more likely to be active. They move around- running, making up games, creating worlds. There is also an abundance of stimuli. Studies show that kids who play outside are more likely to have enhanced focus and creativity. This is most likely due in part to the exposure to the real world. They have to focus to problem solve, to figure things out. And if nature was fit inspiration for the world’s greatest painters, it’s surely fit for our children.
But exposure is not just figurative. Nature holds fresh air. Sunlight provide vitamin D. Kids who spend time outdoors rather than in front of a screen are experiencing a more natural world, the world our bodies were made for. This of course has health benefits.
There are a lot of ways to work the outdoors into your children’s home school education. Do yourself a favor and take your work outside so you can keep an eye on them. Supplement regular time outside with special hiking and camping trips. Make a habit of eating on the porch or in the lawn. Little steps are the only steps that will lead to sustainable progress.
What are your favorite outdoor activities with your kids? What do they enjoy doing outside?