I have read a lot about the importance of spending time outdoors in nature for young children (as well as adults). We live in houses stuffed with everything and kids love running, jumping and large space more than anything in the world. Well, at least the first 6-7 years of their lives :).
If we think about children’s first 5 years, most of their development is physical. First we get happy to see them rolling from side to side, then reaching for things and holding rattles in their hands. Then comes the joy of crawling, standing holding on to things, walking. Almost all their milestones are something physical. First 5 years are so important to develop children physically. This is the time where they need most opportunity to develop their lifetime physical skills such as climbing, jumping, running and swimming etc. Their childhood don’t come back and it is hard to teach older ones to appreciate the nature and being outdoors if they are not trained from young age.
The importance of outdoors and spending time in the nature is emphasized by most home-school advocates and educators. Charlotte Mason, 19th century educator, encouraged all her students to spend great amount of time outdoors, noticing the changes in weather and nature. Her students kept a nature notebook and would record their nature collections. “Our forefathers and generations before them lived in the fields, had so much to do with nature and were in harmony with it. Our houses are small, no space and so artificial for young minds to develop” that was her talking in mid 1800’s. I can just imagine what she would say now.
Even in Montessori method, spending time outdoors developing multi-sensory and motor skills are mentioned time and again. Doman and Waldorf stresses the importance of being able to swim from young age. These physical developments and abilities make children more confident and make their brain more active. Very often we underestimate what children learn from by just going for regular walks or playing in playgrounds. Often they will invent things, collect things and come to conclusions about how environment, nature, trees, animals etc around them function through seasons.