Updated: May 17
Yesterday as we went on our usual morning walk, I saw my kids in awe while looking a spider web trapping the dew. I could see their faces deep with fascination. Walking amongst trees and breathing some fresh air has a huge impact on our wellbeing especially now that our lives have changed drastically and that we are spending most of our day indoors and our only way of connecting to the outside world is through screens.
We know that spending time outdoors has a deep calming effect on us, it relaxes our bodies, minds and souls; connecting us as a whole. After all, we come from nature and we have always belonged there, and only recently in modern times humans started spending time indoors. We are intrinsically orientated to seek a connection with nature and other forms of life, this is called Biophilia.
We know that exercising in nature lowers your heart rate and blood pressure far more than doing the same exercise within urban spaces for the same amount of time. Doctors around the world are prescribing nature as a way to reduce depression and to maintain general wellbeing. The practice of Shinrin Yoku or forest bathing is now supported by the Japanese government. To me, these ritual morning walks are bringing more flavour and colour into our days at home. Being outside broadens our senses, engaging with our eyes to look upon the fallen autumn leaves, finding insects, feeling the dew in plants, smelling wet soil or the delicate smell of a flower, picking up a pretty flower, collecting dry leaves and allowing some time to just be there present in nature. These simple yet powerful actions will calm little ones and adults alike, while engaging and connecting to nature.
Plus, all of the nature materials collected can be used to create interesting creatures. Ask your kids to look for shapes and patterns within their collected leaves, draw and stick eyes, find leaves that look like ears and tails, arrange them on the table or stick them together and turn your child’s favourite animals into leaf creatures. It is a great way to develop deep observation and imagination. Have fun.
Although we don’t know exactly when we will be able to go back to forest school and play freely outside, the day will come and when that happens I hope that we can carry with us some new learnings.The slower pace of life is okay. We can reshape our educational system to set the environment at the heart of the curriculum. We can pay attention to cooperation, creative thinking and resilience. There will be challenges that our kids need to address creatively in a collaborative way in order to live in a sustainable and healthy planet.