We call ourselves an urban nature preschool so obviously, at Elements, being out in our custom-designed backyard is a big part of a school day. And with our greenhouse, we managed to get the kids outdoors even in winter.
Why do we place such an emphasis on connecting children with nature?
Just five minutes’ “green exercise” can produce rapid improvements in mental wellbeing and self-esteem, with the greatest benefits experienced by the young, according to a study this year at the University of Essex.
Free and unstructured play in the outdoors boosts problem-solving skills, focus and self-discipline. Socially, it improves cooperation, flexibility, and self-awareness. Emotional benefits include reduced aggression and increased happiness. “Children will be smarter, better able to get along with others, healthier and happier when they have regular opportunities for free and unstructured play in the out-of-doors,” concluded one authoritative study published by the American Medical Association in 2005.
“Nature is a tool,” says Stephen Moss, naturalist, broadcaster and author, “to get children to experience not just the wider world, but themselves.” So climbing a tree, he says, is about “learning how to take responsibility for yourself, and how – crucially – to measure risk for yourself. Falling out of a tree is a very good lesson in risk and reward.”
How can you, as a parent, make sure your child does not lose touch with the outside world?
Here are some great resources to help you: