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    Is your child a nature lover? Here are a few indoor and outdoor activities to nurture his bond with nature

    Amrita Gracias Amrita Gracias 8 Mins Read

    Amrita Gracias Amrita Gracias

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    Kids can share a special bonding with nature. Do you know that nature activities for toddlers and preschoolers could benefit their overall well-being? Here is a list of fun indoor and outdoor activities for kids that would help them bond with nature

    Is your child a nature lover? Here are a few indoor and outdoor activities to nurture his bond with nature

    "When children come into contact with nature, they reveal their strengths." When the world's most influential child educator, Maria Montessori says so, it's something you need to listen to.

    As parents, our children's wellness is our main focus. And, we constantly strive to ensure that their physical, mental, and emotional well-being is taken care of. We turn to several tried and tested methods and even seek new ones to help provide these essential requisites. But in the process, are we forgetting the most basic and best source of their well-being 'bonding with nature'? Outdoor activities for kids and nature activities for toddlers are means to strengthen their connection with nature.

    Bonding with nature

    Noted American author and journalist Richard Louv explains in detail why children should embrace the natural world. In his book, Last Child in the World: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, Louv examines the relationship between nature and children while explaining why nature is essential for their healthy physical and emotional development.

    According to Louv, the increasing disconnect between children and nature is reaching alarming proportions. He urges parents to look at several negative effects of this 'ignorance' on the health and other social capabilities of children. The absence of this essential bond can lead to attention disorders, depression and obesity, apart from leading to a lack of imagination and creativity. The important role of nature in child development cannot be overlooked.

    Why are today's children disconnected from the natural environment?

    1. Rapidly changing social conditions, including urbanization and space constraints.
    2. Concerns about safety and pollution.
    3. Technology and indoor entertainment (the biggest contributors to the dire situation).
    4. A gradual but decisive shift from outdoor to indoor play.

    These unfortunate circumstances have led to both children and adults being ignorant about the remarkable benefits of being outdoors and enjoying every bit of nature. Moreover, when children do not experience this essential union with nature, they don't care about the environment as much as they should. Worryingly, it has also been found that children are not exposed to nature as much as they should be.

    Benefits of outdoors and connecting with nature

    1. Physical benefits

    Outdoor physical play is essential for the following reasons:

    • When children are encouraged to play outside, they are more physically active. This reduces the risk of obesity and other related diseases.
    • Outdoor play involves actions like climbing, jumping, running and walking on different surfaces.
    • These activities help improve both gross motor skills like balance, coordination and agility and fine motor skills like hand-eye coordination.
    • Playing with mud, sand, stones, water and sticks can actually enhance their immunity levels.

    2. Cognitive benefits

    Play that encourages a diverse range of activities promotes:

    • Increased creativity and imagination and also, improved cognitive functioning.
    • Enhanced self-confidence and problem-solving abilities.
    • Interacting with nature also leads to enhanced observational skills.

    Natural environments are made up of challenging spaces where children learn to recognize and assess risks. It allows for effortless focus, thus improving attention, memory, and other cognitive skills. It also provides an excellent sensory experience. Here, children learn through various encounters using sight, hearing, touch, smell, and even taste, in some instances!

    3. Social and emotional benefits

    Being in the natural world leads to better life skills:

    • Free and unstructured outdoor play lets your child interact with other children, thus nurturing social relationships.
    • It also improves communication, language, and collaborative skills.
    • When children are exposed to and allowed to enjoy nature, they learn to be more caring about it. They also understand why it is important to safeguard and conserve natural resources.
    • Engaging in play while connecting to nature is relaxing and provides a sense of calm, lowering stress levels. Research indicates that free outdoor play can help reduce Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms and other behavioral disorders or depression.
    • Access to an open environment enables children to choose, and this allows them to gain confidence in themselves and their choices. It also teaches self-control and self-discipline.

    Shobha Menon, the trustee and founding member of Nizhal, a Chennai-based non-profit trust that promotes tree conservation, says, "The natural environment stimulates the child's intellectual, emotional, social, and physical development. Nature is a giant, open-ended learning laboratory where children are provided countless opportunities for discovery, creativity, and problem-solving. Interacting with natural environments allows children to learn by doing and experiment with ideas."

    The natural environment stimulates the child's intellectual, emotional, social, and physical development. Nature is a giant, open-ended learning laboratory where children are provided countless opportunities for discovery, creativity, and problem-solving. Interacting with natural environments allows children to learn by doing and experiment with ideas.

    - Shobha Menon, conservationist

    Forest bathing and its benefits

    'Forest bathing' does sound strange, right? But you would be amazed at its wonderful benefits. It's nothing but being in the presence of trees, and was introduced by the Japanese in 1982, as a program called 'Shinrin-yoku' which means 'taking in the forest atmosphere'.

    How can we do this?

    Forest bathing doesn't involve any physical activity like hiking, trekking, or even stretching. It's all about being in the forest and enjoying its serene bliss. It's almost like doing nothing and letting nature do all the nurturing—be it in a forest or a city park.

    What are its benefits?

    • Improves immunity and energizes
    • Decreases risk of heart attack
    • Prevents obesity and diabetes
    • Reduces stress, calms the body and mind
    • Cleans up the lungs
    • Prevents skin disorders

    Interesting ways to spend time in nature as a family

    Indoor activities: 

    There are several ways in which you can encourage your child to be involved in nature-related activities at home.

    • Set up a small garden on your balcony or a vegetable garden on your terrace. This is a wonderful way to bond as a family. Decide on the plants you would like to have in your garden, purchase all the required materials, and pot your saplings. Caring for plants in the garden is a fun activity for younger children too. "Composting vegetable waste for the home is also an interesting learning activity',' says Menon.
    • A small fish tank in your home can make for a wonderful experience for children.
    • You can even set aside a space to display your child's collection of leaves, stones, or shells that he might have picked up on a nature walk.
    • Encourage nature-related art and craft activities or nature-themed stories or magazines.

    Outdoor activities:

    The outdoors offers unlimited ways to explore nature. Try and schedule nature-related activities on a regular basis for your family.

    • Nature walks, bird watching, hiking, and trekking are great ways to explore the wonders of nature and learn about natural phenomena.
    • Plan a nature-based vacation that involves traveling to areas like wildlife sanctuaries or places largely untouched by urbanization, where you can enjoy activities like camping or hiking. Your child can learn about the diversity of nature and its natural resources. It will kindle a natural urge in your child to contribute towards conservation.
    • Even a simple walk on the beach or a trip to the zoo can be an exciting and fun experience for younger children.
    • You and your child can volunteer at a nature conservation organization or an animal shelter. "At Nizhal, we have many programs that are focused on children interacting with nature. The 'Mugarn Maarum Marangal' program allows children to choose a favorite tree and observe and record how it changes over days or weeks or months. The 'Palliyil Nizhal' program for schools offers sensitive greening and activity-based ideas for children in a specially planned module," adds Menon.

    So, take your children to the nearest park and let them just enjoy the atmosphere. Nature will open out her arms and embrace them with all the goodness. What's more, it will do a world of good to your child's mental and physical health too.

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