It’s no secret that getting kids out into nature is so beneficial, there’s scientific evidence to suggest that it is amazingly powerful for adults’ mental health too. There’s something about getting out into nature, being in the moment and noticing the little things.
Since being in isolation, we’ve made a point of getting outdoors for most of the day. We’ve collected a whole box of nature bits and pieces, found a ladybug lifecycle on our fence, and the kids have slept better than ever. We’re lucky to have a long driveway and lots of local parks that we have still been able to visit so we’ve used that to help the kids burn energy, develop their gross motor skills and get lots of glorious sunlight.
Being a Speech Pathologist, I’m always looking for opportunities for kids to learn new words and new skills that will set them up with a wider vocabulary, world knowledge and problem-solving skills.
Nature is full of unpredictable events - uneven surfaces, odd shaped sticks, leaves that are all different shapes and sizes, changing weather, new textures and patterns, interesting smells and sounds. Children need to navigate this unpredictability and they thrive off exploring how it all works. The more time they spend in nature, the more they see patterns and similarities and the more the unpredictability becomes predictable.
All of these observations, experiences and ideas are opportunities for language. Textures, sounds, smells, colours, shapes all lend themselves to new descriptive vocabulary. Learning these through experience, with their 6 senses, makes for much more effective storage of new words in their brain. Anything involving movement is great for verb development, and then of course we can label a whole variety of different trees, plants, animals, insects and more with nouns.
In order for all this new learning to occur, it is so important that parents get stuck into nature exploration too. You are their amazing device for learning new words, new ideas and support in problem solving. Together you can create new games, running races, collections of nature’s treasures, or even go pretend camping in the backyard. Afterwards, you are their greatest resource for helping them to reflect and remember on your nature experiences.
The one thing I absolutely love about nature – it is always there and yet always changing. I love that it means you don’t need to buy new toys or resources when you’ve got an abundance of soil, trees, grass and bugs!