You try so hard to be a great parent and organize learning activities, and it seems impossible to make it all happen smoothly. Why is it so difficult to get from point A to point B with a young child?
The answer is simple: for your child, everything is point B. They are in no rush to get anywhere, because where they are at this moment is exactly where they feel they should be.
As adults, we have forgotten to live in the moment, and to truly take in the world around us. For efficiency’s sake, we are planning dinner on the way to the grocery store; texting work during story time; reviewing our e-mail while our child is breastfeeding.
Your child, however, seems to be in no rush to get there. She wants to look at the flowers from your neighbor’s garden for the fifteenth time this week or pick a slug up and ask numerous questions. She dawdles in every puddle on the way — not just to splash around in it — but mostly to figure out why the sky is inside that puddle and also above.
Your level of frustration rises. You explain hurriedly that what she sees in the puddle is called a reflection, and gently tug her along to carry on with your fast-paced day. Over the years, we teach our children to be efficient like us, but with this great time-saving lifestyle, we are robbing ourselves and our children the amazing experience of being present, discovering the world around us, and feeling its incredible energy. One of the easiest ways to achieve that is to spend time outdoors.
Mother Nature provides the perfect environment for children to feel happy. Surrounded trees, plants, water, flowers, birds, and fresh, clean air reduces stress; inspires creativity; heightens peace of mind, and can help improve performance in the classroom.
For children, jumping in a puddle is a learning experience. They enjoy figuring out why their boots are suddenly filled with water (much to your chagrin). It is no wonder children are continually intrigued with such surroundings.
You might catch your little one trying to catch a bird before it flies away. Or you might spot that peculiar look on your child’s face while putting his or her hands in the mud and sensing how delightfully “squishy and cool” it is. It is amazing how a worm can offer hours of delight. Watching a leaf fall from a tree in a marvelous dance can be mesmerizing enough to send your child twirling with delight.
It is essential for your children’s heath (and yours), that they spend time outdoors, surrounded by nature at least fifteen minutes every day. It does not have to be an elaborate outing. In fact, the simpler, the better!
Go for a Walk for the Fun of It! Make it a habit to go for a walk as a family every day for at least fifteen minutes. Don’t think of going to the park or to the store. Instead, just focus on enjoying the walk.
Younger children will find plenty of entertainment along the way. Take the time to listen to them, and ask them open-ended questions such as “I wonder where the rain comes from” or “I wonder where ladybugs sleep”.
With older children, you could take a little notebook along to write down all the questions you came up with then research the answers once you get home.
Flowers are also incredible to watch and nurture. If you pick a flower outside, show your child how the flower keeps drinking water by adding a few drops of food coloring to the water, and watching as the flower turns that color!
Go for a Family Bike Ride. It is a great way to spend time as a family while giving you some alone time too. Since it is not always easy to carry a conversation while riding a bike, family members get some time to enjoy silence as well. Having a quiet mind is just as important as having an active one.
In fact, research shows that quieting our mind (thinking about nothing) enhances our ability to think and problem-solve. Bike rides are especially great when children are going through a difficult time, and need a connection to both nature and family.
Explore Your Neighbourhood. We are very fortunate to live in a province where nature is all around us. We can go for hikes; walk along the ocean and enjoy captivating nature right in our backyards. If possible, choose a place to live where you are surrounded by nature.
If you prefer the city lifestyle, find the areas in your neighborhood where your child can have the opportunity to climb trees; have a picnic; build a fort and observe animals in their natural habitat.
Plant a Garden or a Tree. You can plant a small edible garden at your home, or even a fruit tree, and teach your children how to care for it. Children enjoy growing their own fruits and vegetables. It is especially rewarding to share them at mealtime with their family.
The benefits of spending time in nature each day are life-long, not only for your child, but also for you. Research shows that spending time in nature decreases depression, anxiety and fatigue, and increases the ability to focus; creative thinking and clarity of mind.
Get your children accustom to stopping to “smell the roses”. Next time you are going somewhere, leave a few minutes earlier and plan activities so you can enjoy the journey. Your child will be delighted and you will soon be looking forward to that peaceful break.