Updated: Oct 10, 2018
Open up your child to the curiosities of your natural surrounding and watch them develop a spirit of playful exploration
Yes, we get it. The weather can get absurdly hot and even we parents dread to think about braving the heat. Having said that, we do strongly believe in the lasting benefits of outdoor exploration for young children. Here's are some reasons why and how you should enjoy the neighbouring park or beach with your kids. Simply take in the fresh air and appreciate the surroundings (hopefully the weather's pleasant).
Nature Walks Are Important for a Child’s Development
There are multiple studies that have proven that the outdoors help to alleviate symptoms for children with ADHD as the natural environment calms them. We see similar benefits for neurotypical children too. The smells, sights and sounds of nature helps to reduce stress levels from their fast paced school life. Research has also shown that this kind of natural stimulation also helps in the cognitive development of early learners.
Being outdoors means being in uneven terrains and walking on different textures. This exciting environment help young kids train their core muscles as they walk over bumpy stones, climb over tree branches and step on fallen leaves.
The experience can also enhance parent-child relationship and the child’s social skills as he or she questions about things that were observed and mini events they experienced along the way. It could be retracing their steps when they've lost their way or even the simple exchange of greetings when they meet a fellow nature walker.
But what if your child is a ‘lazy’ walker and refuses to go outside?
Create Simple Games to Motivate Them
I remembered there was a phase when Heidi, my eldest, was obstinate as she was frequently body-worn when she was a baby. She wanted to be at a height where she could share the same view I had. Granted that it was a completely valid reason, I needed her to start walking on her own as my lack-of-exercise core was not dealing very well with her increasing body weight.
I created a ‘Let’s find…’ game to incentivise her to go on the walk. It certainly helped that she was a budding collector. We always brought along a little bucket and a little magnifying glass. Then we started walking along, hunting for ‘something orange’, or ‘something soft’, or ‘something rough’.
In the process we learnt about basic properties of objects. What was fantastic was she took great pride in completing these "important" tasks and often sets off fervidly scurrying in search for these objects.
Of course, after a while, she would get distracted and would proceed to start collecting flowers and little pebbles she finds along the way. But that’s alright, she got the work-out she needed without realising it was one.
Prepare Ahead and Let Them Explore
Though I always encourage spontaneity, it would be wise to make basic preparations ahead. It would be great to have on band-aids and clean wipes in the event someone falls or gets hurt. We should also always have water and good shoes. Sometimes, I bring small snacks since little children gets hungry real quickly and hunger pangs can quickly escalate into tantrum storms and we wouldn’t want that.
Finally, let your child explore and learn at their own happy little pace.