Playing outdoors and learning outdoors are things I have been thinking about a lot lately. As both a teacher and a parent, I understand how important it is for not only my son, but also my students to have as many meaningful and fun experiences outdoors in nature as possible.
Sadly, many people out there don’t seem to agree with me. In Japan as well as in my home in Canada, children in general are becoming disconnected with nature. Children are spending more time indoors and often, their parents do little to encourage them to get outside. Many find it convenient if their kids are downstairs playing a game as opposed to being outside running around where they may not know where they are. The growing fears of “stranger danger” lead many parents to keep their kids “safe” by keeping them inside the house.
On so many occasions, whether at the local playground or on a family field trip at school, I have seen too many parents scolding their kids for getting dirty or getting upset when they touch a bug. I’ve been witness to parents teaching their kids that dirt is bad. Bugs are bad. Playing with mud is bad. Running around in the woods is bad. Eventually, these kids will start to believe what their parents are saying. Parents are of course the most important teachers in a child’s life and if these negative messages are being sent to them by the most important of teachers, they will believe them!
As a teacher, I am fortunate enough to have large park within walking distance of my school. It is filled with fields, gardens, ponds, stream and even a small forest. I am lucky enough to get my class outside on an almost daily basis. We wander through the park and explore it on a regular basis. We run, play and learn about nature. My students are becoming bird watchers and love to collect insects. I encourage my students to get their hands dirty and discover the things that live under leaves and rocks.
I grew up in a small town in Canada and the forest was in many ways my playground. I am already encouraging my young son to play with sticks, rocks, leaves and other things he find outside. Hopefully, with lots of exposure to nature and playing outdoors, he will love the world outside as much as I do.
My son (about 6 months ago) exploring a patch of nature close to our house.