Kids and nature

[ 0 ] 20/01/2020 |

Guest post by Chiara Battistelli*

It is no news that we – human beings – have drastically changed our ‘lifestyle’ in just a little bit more than half a century of massive industrial and technological evolution, in such a way that, besides the many benefits we gain from our modern means, we are more and more disconnected from our ‘natural’ inner side, often losing the healthy connection that we originally had to the world we live in.

We do not respect nature anymore in many cases, we totally pretend to ‘bend’ it to our needs until auto-destruction, or we simply do not spend enough time in contact with nature, with the obvious consequence of dedicating a very few resources to ‘feed’ that inner side of ourselves that is, on the contrary, a vital part of our mental and physical health.

We are not just part of this world, I think we are done of the same ‘material’. In other words, the earth is us and we are the earth. We sometimes forget to breathe, to pause, to walk, to just wait and observe the natural beauty around us. We disconnect from our own ‘soul’.

And clearly this is reflected in the way we educate our children: running from one indoor activity to another, ‘speeding’ playdates, filling children time with screens, tablets, video games, finally we end up answering to the thousand questions a kids have when observing things around them, with quick sentences as ‘I don’t have time right now’ or similar dismissing answers.

But have you ever thought about the benefits of nature for our kids? And the importance of leaving them exploring ‘life’ in the outdoors? Have you ever noticed how rewarding, exciting and relaxing at the same time is a day spent outdoors with our kids? Have you ever observed how kids are naturally attracted by flowers, animals and scientific phenomenons?

It is nowadays proven by numerous studies that nature improves children’s health and well-being (and ours too!), by relieving stress, improving creativity and memory, positively impacting energy and concentration, finally improving the overall development of children.

Here are the outcomes of scientific studies, as published on

Nature builds confidence. The way that kids play in nature has a lot less structure than most types of indoor play. There are infinite ways to interact with outdoor environments, from the backyard to the park to the local hiking trail or lake, and letting your child choose how he treats nature means he has the power to control his own actions.

It promotes creativity and imagination. This unstructured style of play also allows kids to interact meaningfully with their surroundings. They can think more freely, design their own activities, and approach the world in inventive ways.

It teaches responsibility. Living things die if mistreated or not taken care of properly, and entrusting a child to take care of the living parts of their environment means they’ll learn what happens when they forget to water a plant or pull a flower out by its roots.

It provides different stimulation. Nature may seem less stimulating than your son’s violent video game, but in reality, it activates more senses—you can see, hear, smell, and touch outdoor environments.

It gets kids moving. Most ways of interacting with nature involve more exercise than sitting on the couch. Not only is exercise good for kids’ bodies, but it seems to make them more focused, which is especially beneficial for kids with ADHD.

It makes them think. Richard Louv, author of the book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, says that nature creates a unique sense of wonder for kids that no other environment can provide. The phenomena that occur naturally in backyards and parks everyday make kids ask questions about the earth and the life that it supports.

It reduces stress and fatigue. According to the Attention Restoration Theory, urban environments require what’s called directed attention, which forces us to ignore distractions and exhaust our brains. In natural environments, we practice an effortless type of attention known as soft fascination that creates feelings of pleasure, not fatigue.

I am from that generation that had the great outdoors as playground and in fact, I only have memories of the simplicity of countryside outdoor playing as building a ‘cave’, playing with friends at the invented game ‘country – family’ using peddles for our ‘chickens’ farm, hair-raising bicycle rides, climbing trees, building wooden tends, observing lizards while I have not so many striking memories of my plastic toys.

My childhood dearest memories are in fact strictly linked with playing and learning in nature. In a word, I had a very happy childhood and I still love going out whenever I can (on Sundays I am afraid!) for walks in the forest with my kid. In the worst times, my connection to nature has been a fundamental anchor to go through these bad times and helped me a lot as a source of inspiration.

Why am I writing this article is not to ‘teach’ you anything new and not to remind you of the importance of respecting nature, as this is (unfortunately) the topic of everyday papers, as icebergs are melting and Amazonia was on fire, Australia is on fire, while bees are risking extinction (not only bees) and tomatoes taste like plastic.

I would like to talk about my personal experience as a mother observing my child’s development and the difference in behavior indoors and outdoors, in the hope of inspiring others to more carefully and mindfully observe what nature can teach and give to your children. By doing so, I hope that respecting nature and exposing and educating our kids to the importance of it, will become well… natural!

The same connection I had with nature I found in my child, a very active (if not hyper) kid. Extremely nervous and agitated when indoors, outdoors activities raised his (and I know all children) curiosity, to the utmost, calmed him down, improved his connection to me – as all parents and children are more relaxed and focused, every time they allow themselves to ‘pause’ from everyday craziness – and plus it gives him the missing vitamins D!

When going out in the garden after school, his questions become always so deep, his curiosity is stimulated so much that my answers have to be very careful and detailed, an approximation is not allowed anymore! Calm and concentration are not terms that I often associate with my son! But once in contact with a forest or the sand, he suddenly and magically relaxes and becomes meditative.

The experience of my child curiosity stimulated by the outdoor walks, happily made me re-discover the world around me … through the neutral and unpolluted eyes of a child. I started looking again at the shapes of the clouds, laying on the grass, observing ants itinerary when bringing their food ‘home’ and as I was becoming calmer and ‘childish’ again, my connection to my son got deeper.

Nature has put us closer while teaching us something new every day….a bee landing on a flower became the ‘excuse’ to talk about pollination for example and how this is vital for human beings survival and global bio-diversity (bees are responsible for producing about 70% of global crops a !!!) and how this is today at risk because of pollution and climate change (and actually became the inspiration for a book.)

This made me think and realize the following simple things, I had forgotten:

  • Nature is us, we are nature.
    But we are not the ‘owners’ of this world. In fact, the trees will survive forever (even better) without human beings, while the contrary is not true! Therefore, we are not entitled to destroy this world!
  • Kids are more connected than adults to nature as their eyes aren’t polluted, they see ‘reality’ with no filter, therefore it is very easy for them to respect it. If only we tell the ‘real’ story …for example: if trees produce oxygen for our life without which we can’t survive, why we are destroying the majority of forests? so simple yet so forgotten (kids get it!)
  • As people get to ‘know’ science and nature, the real functioning of natural cycles, they automatically become more connected to the entire universe, empathy towards all other living beings improves.
    If you tell kids the truth about animals’ life, for example, with no bias, without the ‘pollution’ of politics and economics, or the momentary culture or fashion, their respect towards nature comes well naturally.

Try to tell a kid – for instance – the real story about intensive animal farms, would you think they would still eat animals ?! This is just an example (for someone it could be too extreme but again look at it with a child’s eyes). Try to explain how and for how long plastic waste can pollute waters, would you think they would carelessly use and throw plastic objects? And from waters, we can talk about fishes and water eco-system and cycle. They’ll see how everything is connected. They realize better than us adults why we should treat this earth better!

  • Learning from nature is education (informal education) that touches children’s sensitiveness and attention, therefore it is very powerful as kids learn with fun and through direct experience.

Improving connection and empathy, this is the final greatest lesson of Nature.

In a few simple words, I hope we will all find more time to be outdoors with our kids, to connect to them and nature more often, to listen to their questions and pay attention to their natural curiosity. I think this is the only way to grow happy human beings and respectful future citizens: giving them space to connect to nature.

By giving them more time to play outside, to experience and discover nature, we can give them the best present for their future, that they will always remember. Not only they will remember, but they will also gain healthy intellectual and spiritual development.

Educating children for the importance of nature brings respect: towards other living beings, towards the world. The earliest we can start this education, the better.

It is happening already, as we are assisting to phenomenons like the Friday Climate Strike: children are the ones reminding and teaching us why this earth needs to be saved. This tells us that a child understands a lot and is inclined to respect. And we should respect Nature. For them, for their future, for ourselves.

So while screen time is the easier way out, it’s important to set aside time for outdoor play. Here you can find lots of ideas.

You’ll see that all these activities are much more engaging, fun and rewarding for your kids than watching a video and the ‘life lessons’ definitely more useful for their psycho-motorial growth.

To know nature is to love it and respect it. This is my hope for me, my child, and all present and future generations: Stay wild! Respect wildness! If you wish to read an educational children’s book, inspired by a walk in nature with my son and his real thousand questions, here‘s the link.

*Chiara Battistelli is an International Higher Education Students Recruitment expert and a Digital Communications & Projects management. She’s the author of the children’s book ‘The thousand Questions of Dino Ricciolino: Out in the Garden‘.

Category: Mum's Library, Uncategorized

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