The Benefits of Nature Immersion

 

Five Important Developmental Areas That Are Supported by Our Programs

1. Cognitive

 

Nature is the perfect environment for cognitive richness (dynamic, diverse, engaging surroundings for the mind to learn and grow) – miles ahead of what even the most prestigious indoor classroom can provide. Consider some of the mental processes that are routinely at work when children are in a natural setting: observation, concentration, exploration, collecting, sorting, experimenting, and building. Children perceive this as play, not as ‘learning’! Yet the foundation of academic learning lies in these powerful processes of the mind.

 

2. Creative

 

Children are free to make up stories and create elaborate pretend play scenarios in nature’s stimulating setting, which also provides an endless bounty of imaginative materials: sticks, pinecones, stones, dirt, leaves and plants, to name a few! As a culture, we tend to put a lot of emphasis on the IQ test as a measurement of mental prowess, but the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT) is a better predictor of lifetime achievement than IQ, grades, or peer expectations of likely future success. These TTCT scores have been declining in American children since the 1980s. Surprised? The timing correlates to when traditional outdoor childhoods started fading away as documented by psychologist Peter Gray.

 

3. Physical

 

Here are a few statistics noted from Nature Preschools and Forest Kindergartens (Sobel, David) to ponder:

  • 1 in 5 American four-year-olds is now obese

  • 89% of children’s activities at a conventional preschool are sedentary, 8% lightly active, 3% moderately to vigorously active

  • The greatest contributor to assuring an active adulthood is an active childhood (Center for Disease Control)Lower rates of illness, better motor skills (especially balance, agility, and hand strength), and better concentration in children from a Scandinavian study of outdoor preschool versus conventional preschool

  • Stronger immunity – “hygiene hypothesis”: the immune systems of children in developed countries are no longer activated by common stimuli because they don’t interact with the environment as much by playing outdoors.Instead, they stay in relatively clean indoor settings made even more so by antibacterial soaps, parents who spray disinfecting bleach on every door handle, and the widespread use of commercial hand sanitizers. Without the early training that used to be normal, maturing immune systems can instead overreact to now-familiar external ‘threats’ that, in reality, pose no danger-such as peanuts. The recent explosion of autoimmune disorders is actually caused by overreactions; in essence, the immune system has become the threat, rather than the protector.


4. Social and Emotional

 

True Kindergarten “readiness” has commonly been nourished through play, which is a form of maturity that includes: curiosity, a love of learning and discovery, the ability to follow simple instructions, personal initiative, and development of a sense of self. Through ‘shared play’, experiences such as taking turns, respecting others’ opinions, making up rules, working together toward a shared goal, sharing discoveries, practicing negotiation skills are all fostered. Nature provides a setting with much stimulation and ever-changing diversity to help children acquire these social and emotional abilities.


5. Spirit and Meditation

 

Time in nature, especially quiet, calm times spent patiently observing, daydreaming, and reflecting, can stimulate a child’s sense of beauty, appreciation, wonder, and awe. From a young age, children begin imagining what it means to have their own place in a larger world. They start to comprehend that they are a connected piece of a magical existence that extends far beyond their own bodies. Unfortunately, today’s children are almost constantly inundated with media and technological stimulation that induces measurable stress. Along with constant images of war and aggression, an over programmed daily life, and often two working parents necessitating multiple transitions during a day
causes a buildup of angst and tension that children cannot comprehend. Young children haven’t developed coping mechanisms to handle these modern day triggers. The debilitating physical and mental effects of stress have been well documented, and kids have no innate immunity to them. Multiple forms of ‘quiet’ nature experiences can heal our children and help them cope with their stress and can also lay the groundwork for a lifetime of spiritual awareness that is rooted in the natural world. Enhancing children’s comfort and love for the outdoors during their formative years can guide them toward a lifetime practice of turning to nature for recreation, learning, and respite.

Resources​

We love sharing books and other resources that have contributed to the creation of The Child's Element philosophy.

We encourage parents and family members to join us in understanding the benefits of nature for the whole family!

BOOKS:

  • Lens on Outdoor Learning – Wendy Banning and Ginny Sullivan

  • How to Raise a Wild Child – Scott D. Sampson

  • Last Child in the Woods – Richard Louv

  • Forest Kindergartens: The Cedarsong Way – Erin Kenny

  • No- Drama Discipline – Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson

  • Vitamin N – Richard Louv

  • Balanced and Barefoot – Angela J. Hanscom

  • There’s No Such Thing As Bad Weather - Linda Åkeson McGurk

  • Nature Preschools and Forest Kindergartens: The Handbook for Outdoor Learning – David Sobel

Learning Outdoors...

Helps support the development of:​​

  • Kindergarten Readiness (For Preschoolers)

  • Social and emotional skills

  • Cognitive skills

  • Physical resiliency

  • Bravery and Self Empowerment

  • Appreciating and respecting the Earth and all living things

  • Awareness of self and others

  • Curiosity

  • A love of learning and discovery

  • Emotional Regulation

  • Meditation Practice

  • Stress Management

  • Team building skills

  • Communication skills

  • An active imagination

  • Problem solving skills