Every parent know how important is nature in our every day life of our kids. We go outside to playground, to ride a bike, to work in a garden, during holidays we choose some nice place far away from cities to relax and to give our children something extra.
But in nowadays, it seems that contact with nature is not the same like it was in past when most of our lives were outside. Today, time outside is precious, limited by technology and not enough.
I still remember that my generation played outside till dark, climbed trees and played easy pavement games, running around our settlement during whole afternoon. We didn’t have mobiles to communicate, but we knew that somebody will be outside to play. We tried our skills during time without parents control on non-formal games, wandering around, discovering new places.
How does it look now?
After my work at elementary school in Olomouc I’ve seen how time in nature, or just outside is limited. When you realize that some kids arrive to school at 6 in the morning and leave it at 17.30 (school club 6-8, school 8-12, 12-17.30 school club) with total 2 hours outside during all that time, it’s like animal in cage. That kids often don’t know what to do with themselves and they are fighting for some movement in their way – can’t focus on some game, bulling the others to get the interaction or running, screamimg inside the school building. They get a sticker that they are hyperactive, don’t listen to the teachers and so on. But some time outside would really help them. I read somewhere that one school in USA changed breaks during a school day for longer and let the kids to go outside more often than usual and after half year they found that kids have better focus on lessons, during the class are more active, their grades are higer and have less behavior problems with teachers. For normal development, children needs free time, time outside, non formal games. No wonder, that some kids are more hyperactive or depressed, they can’t focus on school tasks, they physical condition is low.
Even scientist noticed that something is going in bad direction and one journalist called it : nature-deficit-disorder.
Author of that theory is George Louv, has written really interesting books: Last child in the woods, Witamin N and Nature Principles. He claimed that, time in nature is a key to good mental and physical health of our children and gives hundreds ideas how to spent time outside. Time outside is important for our well being and you can see some of the points on that graphic:
Second inspiration for me was one documentary film: The WILD THING project from UK about how children of our generation are lack of outside play or even how the wild or nature is seen by kids. Because of adult worries they see it as dangerous, that you get sick because of bugs like ticks, it’s dirty, there are animals and you can get lost. Listening to that I was really worry how our world is changing. How nowadays childhood is different than mine.
On that website you can find inspiration for outdoor activities or ideas like voucher for time with parent for some activity in nature . What more precious you can give than your time? From my experience at school and on outdoor camps I can really recommend non-material gifts, kids really took it serious and for them it was something special. You can give something like: evening sky observation, picnic in park, bike tour, making house for elfs in the garden etc.
See the film trailer here
What we can do more? Go outside as much as possible to build positive connection between our children and nature. Spend there a time, have fun, make a picnic or just take a blanket and play board games outside. If you won’t spend your free time in nature why they should do it?
What to do to enjoy that time together not only as a supervisor of children play? Play with them 😀
See some my ideas how to spent interesting time outside:
NOT-A-PLAYGROUND and MUD KITCHEN
That ideas I found last year during workshops about alternative education (author of that name “NIEPLAC ZABAW” is a landscape architecture Anna Komorowska). It’s an idea to make a space for play but with non typicall playground equipment but with natural elements like branches, pallets, ropes, sand, water, terrain hills…and favorite parents element is that mud kitchen which is some outdoor version of kids kitchen but with water, sand and soil access.
See inspiration here
The whole idea is fascinating for me, because most of the elements, you can do with your children with that what you have at home. Let them plan what to do and help with realization. On our building site where our house is build by us, we have a real NOT A PLAYGROUND with sand hills, a lot of constructiion materials an tons of pallets. We used them to make some house and something like Pikler traingle. Our son Przemek (2,5 years old) is a great helper and everything what we do, he does as well. In that way, we are sure that he won’t harm himself by using the tools in the wrong way. Let the kids to help you, teach them how use the tools, prepare for them tools for their size for better manipulation (see here some inspiration from Montessori education). Great example you can find in Poland, there is first that kind of playground and it calls: Rezerwat dzikich dzieci (Wild kids reservoir).
That natural playground elements are “open”, so they can be a car, a ship, a shop or an elephant! So great for creativity and fantasy. You don’t even need a garden to make a mud kitchen, balcony is enough. If you don’t want to build that space, go to the old forest, you will find full of obstacles for play. Some of that places you should find in forest preschools. It’s more and more popular so try to find in your area searching titles like: forest pedagogy, outdoor club, experiential learning, learning through experience, adventure club and common.
GEOCACHING, is my favorite idea of being outside with kids. Why to just go for a walk when you can go for a treasure! For those who don’t know what is it, explaining video here:
Geocaching is a world outdoor game where you are seeking for some boxes (actual 3 millions caches all over the world!!! ) using a GPS device or mobile phone application.
That boxes can be micro small and so big that you go inside. There are a different types, most typical are traditional, multicache and mystery. Every of them gave you a coordinates to find the box but in different way. Every cache has written a type, difficulty, a terrain and has an attributes – check this things before you go. In bigger caches, there are mostly some small toys (from kinder surprise eggs or other small objects) for exchange – it’s kids favorite part.
To start the game go to www.geocaching.com, create an account and check what caches are near you (account is free and application for mobile like c:geo also). They can exchange some small treasure in caches (bonus for parents, you can get rid of small things from home in elegant way 🙂
It’s really great game for all ages, you can get to know new places and get some interesting information about that places where caches are. Even 2,5 years old kids have fun to follow GPS to treasure and older are learning about map orientation, coordinates and using GPS in terrain.
Bonus for kids: INSTRUCTOR TOOL KIT AND OLD GAMES
When I worked as a instructor of team-building adventure learning and sport, we had a big box which we called instructor tool kit. There was a lot of things, which we used for all kind of small games between at the begging to know each other, between big games or during a free space to have fun. To make outdoor tool box you need a few things: papers, marbles, pencils, chalk, few balls, string, pins, elastic, rope, memory game cards, playing cards, dices, scarf, stickers, markers, caps, scissors and add some sticks, rocks, branches. Do you see some ideas for game with that equipment? Try to remind the easiest games from our childhood: tag, hide and seek, hopscotch, blindfolded, caps, tracking game, building some houses for elfs or planes from paper, finding cards in terrain, finding a treasure with tips on paper notes or map.
In nowadays, children don’t often spend time outside their houses to play together, to learn from each other games and they don’t pass them so the games are more a more forgotten. To save them we as a parents have to show them our games from childhood. Games are universal from all over the world, what I love so much that I wrote a huge program of sports and games around the world. I used that project on camps, in school club activities and during my work in team building company in Olomouc. Kids really enjoyed old games and were listening with interest some history of every game – from which country came from, with what equipment was played etc.
If you interested in some untraditional games and sports, check the names of the sport like: Molkky, Kubb, Intercrosse, Indiaca, Pierscieniowka, El caracol, Ciupy, Palant, Ringo, Kapsle, Tchoukball, Korfball, Monk, Nohejbal. They are really interesting. My favorite book with all sport it’s Encyklopedia Sportów Świata from Wojciech Lipoński (from my Univeristy – AWF Poznań, Poland). It’s translated in many languages so check it, it’s like a bible of sports and games.
I hope that few ideas will encourage you to go outside and use all benefits what nature are giving to us for better health of our children and ours. Enjoy it 🙂
Author: Mgr Anna Kubica, PE teacher and sport instructor, instructor of learning through experience education, author of “Sports of the world program” on outdoor camps – lover of new games and activities, gardener of permaculture garden,Montessori education enthusiast and mum of 2 boys – Przemek i Wojtek.