‘Nature-deficit disorder’ – yes, you heard it right! In his book, ‘The Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder’, Richard Louv, the American author and journalist, introduced this term. He refers to what the modern-day child experiences when she hardly gets to connect with nature in her environment. Time and again research has underlined the positive effects of nature on children. What better way to get your preschooler to bond with nature than through a nature walk? And, what if that walk, in turn, turns out to be a learning activity for your child? Here are some of the benefits of a nature walk for your child.
1. Serves as an auditory sensory activity: As you walk down the path in your neighbourhood park, your child will become alive to the sounds of nature around him. Arouse his auditory sense and make him conscious of various sounds - animal cries, bird calls, the rustle of leaves on trees, the crackle of dry twigs and leaves beneath the feet, the swoosh of the breeze, and even the tap-tap of his tiny feet. Identifying sounds and discriminating them will help hone his listening skills.
2. Nurtures linguistic skills: Point out various things, animals, birds and insects to your little one and identify them by their names. Encourage her to practise saying aloud the names. This will help expand her vocabulary kit.
3. Introduces mathematical concepts: When your child plays in the park, teach him to count the number of stones, twigs, leaves, lines on the bark of the tree and so on. You can also point out to your little one various shapes of leaves and other objects that he sees. These will be his early lessons in mathematics and geometry. Introduce him to it. When you integrate learning with play, it will arouse your child’s interest.
4. Brings out the artist in the child: Show to your little one the different colours of leaves, flowers, stones and twigs. Teach her to identify similar colours when she sees them. Also, encourage her to draw on sand using a twig or splash water onto the sand and watch the shapes that form. Together, you can even pick up anything that interests you – different coloured stones, feathers, or dried leaves. Back home, you can stick these in an album and bring out a collector’s edition!
5. Awakens the tactile sense: Let your child touch and feel various things – the rough stone bench, the smooth pebble, the coarse sand, the crispy leaf, the velvety flower, the soft feather and so on. Teach him the differences in texture. His tactile sense will be aroused.
6. Offers a peek into the animal kingdom: Get your little one to observe animals, birds and insects closely. You can take along a pair of binoculars to take a closer look at a nest or a magnifying glass to examine the tiny snail as it inches along. Beginner’s lessons for your budding biologist!
7. Teaches about weather and seasons: Talk about the weather to your child as you walk together. Point out the clouds – the white, fluffy ones floating by on a clear summer afternoon or the dark grey ones hovering above threateningly on a wintry evening. Differentiate between the gentle breeze and the strong gust of wind.
With all these benefits and more that nature walks have to offer for your child, shouldn’t you let him experience what William Blake meant when he penned these lines?
‘To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.’