Many people — including children — spend an increasing amount of time indoors. For instance, many children now play video games and watch TV instead of play outside and interact with nature.
This goes for adults too. We spend countless hours on our smart phones, email accounts, websites and more. And while at times, it may seem like this is the way the world is going, there’s immense value in children spending time outdoors and experiencing the beauty and tranquility of nature.
Think back to your childhood.
As an adult, you probably remember the happy times of playing with neighbours outside or exploring the park.
Children and nature are naturally drawn to each other. Nature gives children joy, life and spectacular learning lessons.
The power of nature.
We’ve seen the greatest of nature-based experiences at our child care centres!
Kids love playing outside, being outside and simply exploring. They work together and imagine together. They help in our vegetable garden and interact with animals. The children’s faces light up — and it’s one of the most magical parts of our day.
But there are many ways nature is tremendous for early learners.
Nature is a special, powerful secret to enhanced early learning.
Nature fosters curiosity.
When children are outside, they are highly engaged with and interested in their surroundings.
If they see a critter hiding in the grass, they want to know what that creature is and what it does.
Because they’re experiencing something new outdoors, their curiosity grows. We see this when it comes to weather, growing plants, animals and more.
Nature showcases beauty and serenity.
As an adult you may have experienced hiking to the top of a mountain and enjoying a spectacular view. Or maybe you love a lying in a hammock under a tree reading a book.
No matter what activity, being outdoors is usually incredibly peaceful.
If you’ve taken a walk with your child, you may notice the peace enters your spirit as you experience the immense beauty and tranquility around you.
And there’s so much to see.
From trees to flowers to animals, there are marvellous sounds, sights and smells.
When children are exposed to these surroundings, they notice the beauty and serenity of it too.
If children grow up learning about and experiencing the peace found in nature, they can return to it throughout their lives. When things are stressful or chaotic, they can find comfort and tranquility in the great outdoors.
Nature teaches children respect.
With frogs, rabbits and tiny tomato plants, we must be gentle and respectful.
Each living thing offers something different and beautiful to the world.
When children experience living things, they understand the importance of respect. They understand creatures — human and otherwise — need love, care and special attention.
Through nature-based activities, children also learn to respect and appreciate our environment. They’ll be more likely to take care of the environment throughout their lives.
Nature improves academic performance.
Recent studies in the United States show that schools who “use outdoor classrooms and other forms of nature-based experiential education support significant student gains in social studies, science, language arts and math” (American Institutes for Research, 2005).
Because of the diversity of learning that nature offers, children have more exposure and hands-on experience in various subject areas.
Nature fosters creativity
If children are outside without electronics, or even many toys, they have an opportunity to be creative.
Maybe they’ll create a game or story using certain toys and parts of nature.
If they’re in the woods or on the beach, they might start collecting stones or seashells.
Children will work together or with adults to see new things, try new things and tell stories about new things.
Nature improves kids’ health.
Being outside gets kids moving.
They use their bodies to explore the outdoors, to practice their balance and to learn new motor skills.
Increased activity helps their bodies stay active and healthy. Rather than being indoors all day, they get the fresh air and physical freedom that the outdoors provides.
Physical activity is important for children’s cardiovascular, respiratory and digestive systems.
Nature offers special early learning lessons.
By stretching outside of the classroom, children become exposed to the wonderful world of plants, animals, water and more.
If they see a bird, we can talk with them about the type of bird, what the bird eats and where the bird lays its eggs.
When it’s windy or cloudy outside, we can share lessons about weather and the atmosphere.
Because the learning is tied to real life experiences, children can relate to it and absorb the lessons more fully.
Nature builds confidence.
Children can run, move and explore at their own pace when they’re outside.
They notice the strength they have within themselves by roaming the outdoors (even within a dedicated space).
Because they’re experiencing new things on their own, they gain confidence and self-awareness.
They more deeply understand how capable they truly are. And this will leave them knowing they can do more — both inside and outside of a classroom, home or child care centre.
Together as a family.
Because nature is so powerful for children during their early learning years, no time or experience in the outdoors is too small.
As a family, you can spend time together in nature by:
- Going on walks
- Exploring the backyard
- Heading to the zoo
- Planting a garden
- Swimming at the beach
- Riding bikes
- Checking out a local nature centre
- Spending time together at the park
- And much more
Nature-based child care centres.
If you believe in the positive impacts of nature, find a child care centre that includes a nature-based component.
At every Harmony centre, we have a large naturalistic playscape that includes with real grass, sand, hay, vegetable and herb gardens, rocks, mounds, forts and water play. We also have activities for children to interact with and care for animals.
To tour our indoor and outdoor facilities, book a tour today. We’ll take you through our entire grounds and explain a typical day at Harmony Early Learning Journey.