Mother Nature – an often neglected, free enrichment class available at all hours of the day. Earth Day is on 22 April every year and what better way to take the lead than to teach our young ones to appreciate all that Mother Earth has to offer?
Nature – The World’s Best Classroom
Every parent wants the best for their child. In a bid to provide our children with skills to navigate the competitive environment, we hurry to enroll them in enrichment classes – art, drama, language… the list goes on. However, there is an oft-neglected, free enrichment class, available at all hours of the day and quite possibly, in one of the best classrooms in the world: Mother Nature.
There are many benefits of exposing your children to nature from a young age. Physically, being in nature can help to greatly boost your children’s immunity. The years between childhood and puberty are when your child’s immune system develops itself, so this is when it needs to be exposed to various microorganisms and other environmental factors to develop immune resistance. This will greatly aid your child’s susceptibility to diseases later on in life, so let loose and let nature train your child’s immune system.
In our increasingly digitised world, children are exposed to devices such as tablets, mobiles and computers; rendering them ‘still’ for longer periods of time. However, little bodies should be encouraged to move as this stimulates muscle and mental development. Early childhood educators are sensitive to this need and set aside time for daily exercise, such as Kinderland‘s KinderFit programme.
Increased observation and communication skills
Allowing your children to roam freely outdoors engages and heightens their senses as they explore and marvel at the beauty that the natural world has to offer. Encourage your children to do the following when you next take them to the park or the beach, and be sure to discuss the day’s outing with them afterwards:
- Touch the bark of different trees (describe rough/smooth, texture and colour)
- Listen to the call of the birds (build awareness of sounds and their direction)
- See and smell different flowers (build their repertoire of colour recognition)
- Feel the wind on their cheeks (distinguish heat/cold, smells in the air)
Balanced mental and emotional development
A 2014 report by the TKF Foundation in the United States found that nature experiences can improve academic achievement, aid cognitive and intellectual development and reduce stress, just to name a few. Another study found short visits (lasting approximately 30 minutes each) to urban nature environments have positive effects on perceived stress relief compared to built-up environments.
Thus, the evidence is strong that physical activity is also beneficial to a child’s mental health. Health-conscious people know that the body releases endorphins after light exercise, which increases feelings of pleasure and decreases the perception of pain. Why not leverage that knowledge to arrive at a happier child who is more resilient to stress?
“This is Home, Truly”
Staying outdoors also allows for children to imprint themselves to the physical land, which helps to form a sense of identity that is closely linked with the areas where they live. By fostering an emotional attachment to nature, be it the neighbourhood park or a wetland reserve, children develop a sense of ‘home’ and belonging, and this cultivates their affection and respect for the land.
This will allow them to be more sensitive to current global issues, such as recycling, sustainable development, environment protection and finite natural resources. Additionally, play in nature will create precious memories that your children will be able to look back on with fondness even well into their adulthood.
So the next time the weekend rolls around, try to plan for a trip to the park or boardwalk instead, followed by a family brunch.
You will be surprised at how much happier everyone will be after their romp outdoors!
This article was contributed by Ms Rebecca Goh, Education Specialist, Kinderland.
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