During this extraordinary COVID Pandemic you have created a schedule for your family. It includes outdoor time, but what can you actually do? Nature exploration!
Even though we have a Stay-At-Home order, with social distance we can still enjoy nature. Governor Inslee said: “If you feel like going for a walk, gardening, going for a bike ride, we consider these things to be essential activities too for everyone’s physical and mental health. We all just have to practice social distancing of at least 6 feet to protect ourselves and others everywhere all the time.”
Time outdoors is essential for overall health.
Children who play and learn in nature can be healthier. Children play harder outdoors than indoors. Children who spend more time outdoors have improved motor development. More outdoor time is correlated with less obesity. Children with more nature time have much less near sightedness.
Children who play and learn in nature can be more engaged in learning. There is increased curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking. Children who spent more time in nature exploration had improved learning outcomes.
Children who play and learn in nature can be better behaved. When children spent time in natural settings there had less anger and aggression. Impulse control also improves.
Children who play and learn in nature are mentally healthier. Stress and depression are reduced for all people who spend time in nature. Children show increased focus and reduced risk for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
Nature exploration with social distancing can happen in your yard, a park, a median strip, a table-top garden, or even virtually (though not with all of the benefits). Click here to read a great post from the National Recreation and Park Association about social distancing in public parks and trails.
Some ideas for nature exploration at your doorstep:
- Infants and toddlers can play and learn in nature:
- Belly hikes are a great way for babies around the age of 12 months old to play outside. Place your child on their belly in a safe area outdoors and encourage them to look, listen, smell, touch, and move. Take your time and help your child explore grasses, leaves, dirt, and more.
- Nature sculptures can be built with twigs, leaves, cones, rocks and more by sticking the collected items into a play dough base. Help your child put objects in the play dough and notice what kind of patterns are created by different items.
- Weather is not a barrier:
- Playing in mud is very fun for young children and helps them develop their senses and motor skills. You can give your child old pots, pans, utensils, and other household tools to move, pour, and squish the mud for imaginary play.
- Kites are a great way to play outside especially on windy days. Children love the challenge of keeping the kite in the air. Kite play supports motor development and hand-eye coordination. Find an open space on a breezy day and help your child get their kite flying!
- Challenge older children:
- Create a Nature Journal– use it to describe what they see from a comfortable spot outside. Encourage them to write how that makes them feel.
- Hold a family Nature Scavenger Hunt—include categories like plants, trees, animals, birds. Who can create the longest list of the signs of spring that they find? How many different flowers can you photograph?
- Make fairy houses or read the book “Roxaboxen” and have your child create their own Roxaboxen.
See www.projectnaturewa.com for more ideas and to find a park near you. Stay safe and inspired in nature. Remember to keep 6 feet or more from others outside your family. Take advantage of the healing power of nature.