Come rain or shine, snow or sun, there's always time to reap the benefits of outdoor learning. Explore the environment, get ideas, have new experiences. Read on to see what they are!
There's a great, big world out there. It's ripe for exploring and, in our opinion, it's our role as adults to ensure that we instill a passion for the outdoors for our children. Whether you're a parent, a grandparent, a teacher or a friend, children simply won't build an interest in the outdoors without enthusiasm and active interest from adults. But how can we do this? Is it as simple as just getting outdoors for a walk or stroll?
In some ways, yes! That might well be all it takes. Regularly getting outdoors and seeing what the world has to hold is a great start point for children. In the rest of this article we'll outline the benefits that children will receive when they're part of outdoor learning, and we'll also give you some examples of what you can do to make the outdoors exciting!
Getting messy and getting muddy! Perfect in the UK!
We spend our entire adult lives trying to make sure we don't get muddy or our houses don't get messy. Clean your room! Wipe your feet! Wash your hands! I'm not about to launch into suggestions that we all abandon our clean homes for anarchy... I promise! That said, I do feel there is definitely a time and place for getting muddy and messy.
As most of you well know, when children are babies they learn through touching and feeling their way around the world. The same can be said for children of an older age. When children get hands on with the world around them they learn far quicker. A great deal of children are kinaesthetic learners*. This means they learn through doing and learn through tactile objects. When we take children outdoors and let them climb the trees, jump in the puddles and squelch the mud they absorb all of the information about the world around them.
When you're out on a walk, resist the urge to stop kids from climbing into that tree or leaping into that mud. Clothes will clean, scrapes will heal and fun will be had! That said, when teaching forest school my general rule is only climb as high as you can get yourself down. Climb higher than that and you'll have to work it out yourself... Generally speaking, kids don't want to be stuck in a tree forever!
*For more information about learning styles and VAKS learning visit this informative Wiki
Screen breaks with outdoor learning activities.
As a world we are now surrounded, immersed and dependent on screens. Phones, computers, televisions to name only the obvious few! Screen's aren't going to go away, and if anything they'll become more and more commonplace. We need to make sure that children have ample time away from screens and see screen breaks as a necessary habit.
In 2005 author Richard Louv wrote the book Last Child in the Woods. This book coined the phrase "nature-deficit disorder." The idea is that children spending less time outdoors directly correlates with an increase in behavioural difficulties. The actual lack of time in nature can affect children's well-being. Now this isn't a formal medical diagnosis but it does speak at a level which is certainly worth considering.
Consider, too, the decision by the publisher of the Oxford Junior Dictionary to replace dozens of nature-related words like “beaver” and “dandelion” with “blog” and “MP3 player.” - Louv, 2009
If we can get children outdoors Louv argues that we'll see a decrease in problems with attention span, obesity and more.
Learning to love nature and learning to love each other
Working together in teams outdoors creates bonds, friendships and promotes teamwork at an incredibly rapid rate. I've seen children who describe themselves as 'enemies' work fantastically together to create a bug hotel during a forest school session. I've witnessed the child who hurts and kicks be the lynchpin of a group's success.
There's something about the outdoors (and forgive me for thinking that perhaps it is because it's no longer the norm) that gets children motivated. They work together, they're excited to explore and are more inclined to resolve any conflicts that arise.
Family bonding through shared activities and experiences
I'm a big advocate of the family camping trip. Maybe it's the cramped conditions, the opportunities for games and adventure or the sense of teamwork that you get as a family unit, there are endless benefits to it.
Camping isn't an expensive holiday and it can be over a short weekend. You don't have the travel the length and breadth of the country to find a good spot. It could even be in your own garden!
If you take the leap and explore outside of your towns and cities there are incredible opportunities to reap the benefits of. You could take a walk and see what nature you come across, play a game of Pooh sticks over a river, skim pebbles, fly a kite, build a den, climb trees, have a campfire, play some games. And if you make it to a beach-side campsite the opportunities for fun are even more so!
For a longer term solution, and for the cost of a family camping weekend, your kids could have their own adventure play zone in your own garden! Our Discovery range of products by the wonderful Plum Play are a brilliant set of resources for outdoor learning. They get kids interested in planting, growing, climbing, exploring to name but a few. To learn more click on the image below.
Simply living and being out in nature is a wonderful benefit in itself.
If you're interested in some great ideas for days out, keen on exploring the rural side of the UK or want to see how another family is loving life outdoors I'd highly recommend having a read of Natalie's blog over at Plutonium Sox. She regularly blogs about family life and shares her take on "days out, travel and rural life. The ordinary moments that make our lives extraordinary."
Health and happiness proven by outdoor learning research
The long term benefits of an active outdoor lifestyle have long been proved by researchers and scientists around the world. Children who have regular exposure to nature and the outdoors have been proven to be more resilient to illnesses and have lower levels of stress and anxiety.
Furthermore, exposure to sunlight means that children have increased Vitamin D intake which improves bone strength as well as vision. I know that this isn't always a given in the UK... therefore the more the better! Remember to always take appropriate cautions on the days where we have strong sunlight!
It's time to get outdoors!
However you do it, wherever you do it, whenever you do it I cannot implore you enough to ensure that our children get outdoors. The benefits are numerous and widespread, and they're too important to let go by the wayside.
As a final point, our world is in trouble and chances are that it's our fault. If we can develop generations of children with a passion for the outdoors and the environment as a whole, maybe we stand a chance of saving it.
I'm sure that many of you have just read this article and feel content that you're on the right track and your kids are regularly loving the outdoors! If that's you, thank you for reading! Please comment your suggestions on great activities you can do with your kids outdoors and share them with our other readers!
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