Do you recall how most of us spent our childhoods outside, climbing trees, exploring rocks, catching bugs, or even playing games with our friends?
Did you know that most children who spend more time outside, such as participating in the aforementioned activities, we’re actually developing their intellectual, emotional, social, and physical development? This is all part of growing up, and it is even better when children spend time outside connecting with nature.
According to Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods”, nature not only benefits children’s health but also their ability to learn. Moreover, it has been discovered that exposure to nature has several long-term benefits such as creativity for the mind, compassion for emotion, and a strong healthy body. And being outside, surrounded by nature, provides children with an ever-changing, free-flowing environment that stimulates all of their senses.
In fact, one study on nature exposure on fifth-graders who went to school regularly at local prairie wetlands, where all fundamental courses were taught in an integrated manner, found that exposure to nature while learning resulted in significantly stronger reading and writing skills (as measured by standardized tests) and reported feeling more excited about school as a result of the experience.
At the most practical level, we know that spending time in nature has a favorable impact on a variety of factors that influence academic performance, including stress levels, creativity, and enthusiasm in science, as stated by Daniel Meier and Stephanie Sisk-Hilton’s study “Nature and Environmental Education in Early Childhood.” While early childhood education is not primarily concerned with future career development, it’s still important to emphasize the increase in equity that may result from educating all children with early experiences in science and the environment.
Therefore, nature exposure benefits students, schools, and of course, the world. Here are five benefits of nature exposure in early childhood education:
When children play outside, they may have the opportunity to interact with new and different playmates. To paint you a picture, imagine a boy playing alone in a sandbox; even if he is alone, other children may join him because they also want to play in the sand, and since they share the same space they eventually play together. This is also true for adults when they go out to buy groceries, shop for clothes, or when they’re looking for a bite to eat. The outdoors give us the opportunity to interact and meet new people simply by asking a question about a specific location or product.
Nature provides us with the opportunity to interact, especially with children, who can share, play in harmony, and solve problems on their own.
Outdoor play also allows a child to be more physically active than indoor play, which may result in more calories burned and a favorable impact on a child’s overall fitness. Also, when children are exposed to sunlight, they absorb vitamin D, which has numerous favorable effects, including in the development of a strong immune system. It offers endless opportunities for physical activity, which, in turn, builds strong bodies.
Children are free to explore, move about, and create noise, all of which are enjoyable forms of self-expression that are frequently prohibited indoors. Where they can run, jump, hop, skip, roll and shout in nature, which helps them relax and lowers stress, anxiety, and restlessness. Furthermore, exposure to nature brings out nurturing qualities in children and reduces symptoms of ADHD and anxiety.
Children who are more exposed to the outdoors (or nature) are more motivated to learn and explore new ideas. This allows them to think, question, and test hypotheses, fostering inquisitive minds. Children are continuously thinking about when they are in nature, whether they are estimating the distance of stepping stones on rivers, or wondering where birds go during the winter.
In other words, nothing else can provide true, authentic learning like these experiences. Since it is only through experience, they can learn to be resilient and confident when they take risks, try and fail, and try again.
Aside from the personal benefit of being connected to nature, there is a collective benefit that we all share. Children from all around the world play outside, forming a global community of shared experiences.
Thus, in order to raise adults who are passionate about environmental protection and the preservation of our planet, they must first develop a profound love for it. And the best way for children to get comfortable in nature is to open the door and let them discover the natural world’s wonders and awe for its beauty.