When children fall in love with nature, the effects will last a lifetime.
Getting to Know Nature
Play in and with nature, explore the many elements of the earth and their different properties, and take the time to notice the everyday magic of the natural world. Turn your attention to landscapes large and small, wonder aloud and narrate what you see, hear, feel, and smell. Bring loose parts like rocks, shells, pine cones, and other bits of nature into your classroom and home playroom, offer up different tools, toys, and scenarios to explore and play freely with them, and watch the children's curiosity and creativity unfold. They joy is contagious so don't hesitate to slow down, play, create, explore and inquire right alongside the little ones, letting yourself get swept away by the many wonders of natural world.
Benefits of a Nature Connection
There are countless reasons to help children foster a deep and lasting connection to the natural world that span nearly every aspect of development from cognitive and academic, to social and emotional, to their physical health and well being. More time spent in and nature and natural materials can help improve concentration and attention, ease anxiety and restlessness, can improve creativity and imagination, and foster empathy and perspective-taking, not to mention an increase in feelings of peace and contentedness. For more information, research and resources about the benefits of nature, visit the Children & Nature Network.
Indoors and Out
Although the benefits of nature are amplified when out in the open air, indoor learning spaces can still offer many opportunities for children to connect with the natural world through everyday play and inquiry. When children are regularly presented with, and surrounded by elements of earth, they develop a deeper, richer, and longer lasting connection to nature.
Every corner of your learning space offers a chance to connect young children to nature, to turn their attention toward the elements of the earth, and to inspire curiosity and interest in the natural world. A purposefully designed classroom or home playroom filled with curiosities from nature, natural light and soft earth-tones, nature-focused toys and materials, and tools for exploration all support deeper and more creative play and authentic learning. But remember, less truly is more, be selective in your decor to avoid visual clutter and be a minimalist when it comes to materials to avoid over-stimulation. Learning environments can evolve with the learners who occupy them so you don't need to do it all at once, take your time and let the little ones do the same so they can really melt into the flow of play.