Nature – The Ultimate Playground for Kids
Every year parents spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on toys and activities for their kids. While lots of these things are great for keeping young minds and bodies active, many of them are unnecessary. Sure kids need structured play, but they also need “free” play and this is ridiculously easy to do when the world’s largest playground is right outside your back door. Why not let them play outside? (Okay, okay if you live in an urban-area apartment building, you can always check out your local parks & rec for outdoor goodness.)
Every toy, book, and TV show that comes out has been designed and redesigned several times in order to make it educational and entertaining for children. The great thing about nature is that, while being entertaining and stimulating to the imagination, it’s also educational. Nature can teach children the basics of science, economics, and creativity.
It’s cheap. Depending on where you live, exploring nature is usually pretty inexpensive, if not free. It may mean going out in your backyard, local park, or perhaps going to the local nature center or state park (which usually have low cost fees or memberships). This way, you don’t have to pay for expensive toys, jungle gyms, or memberships to expensive entertainment centers, but you still get the benefit of stimulating and educational play.
It makes them think. Lately there’s been a trend in education towards inquiry based learning. Researchers have found that if students explore and experiment to figure out answers on their own, they’re going to learn better, and retain more information. It also helps them develop skills to be able to learn things on their own later. What better environment to learn things than out in nature? There are lessons for kids of all ages to discover about the world around them. (Grown-ups, too!)
It may even help the world. Everyone these days is trying to be more green and more environmentally conscious. What better way to help do your part than to get your children interested in their own planet; right now when they’re young and impressionable? What might be a fun time for them now just might be a future hobby, career, or world saving invention.
It’s fun. While it’s easy to forget, childhood isn’t just for learning about how to be an adult, it’s also about having fun. Nature gives kids a chance to use their imagination and be free to just be kids.
While unstructured play outside is great for kids, you can also find a lot of places offering structured classes and learning sessions for kids that focus on the natural world. Check your local park, zoo, or museum. There’s a good chance they have classes you can sign up for, and since many of these places are not for profit, they’re usually affordable as well as informative. My two kidlings just finished up three-weeks of free swimming lessons offered by the Staten Island parks & rec.
Across the world, there are millions of dollars being spent to help promote sending your kids outside to learn from Momma Nature. That’s because spending time in the outside world is so important for developing minds. It can also be a great escape for you as well. (Okay, so my kids aren't old enough to venture out on their own just yet, but Lord, knows, I'm ready!)