Our children are born with an innate connection to the earth. They are a part of nature, and crave to continue that connection.
When they have freedom in a natural environment you see how authentic their joy is in this type of setting. They want to be outdoors, IN nature, learning WITH and THROUGH nature. They want to keep this bond strong. They know how to, it’s not something we need to ‘teach’, but we absolutely need to allow for it. We need to offer the right space, lots of uninterrupted time, and see the inherent value of young children being truly immersed in a natural setting.
A lot of young children in ECE settings for long hours are spending time outdoors but in an environment that is anything but natural. It might have some ‘fun’ things, but how do they keep their nature connection intact when their feet can only feel artificial grass or matting, and their hands are only holding steel ladder frames?
Mary Anne Evans, under her pen name George Eliot, got to the heart of it when she said,
“we could never have loved the earth so well if we had had no childhood in it”.
Our wee people in care desperately need their childhood IN the earth, not a manufactured ‘outdoor area’ that more resembles a playground than a garden.
There is a misconception that fresh air equals a nature connection, that it is enough to have children out of doors. But it is not enough.
Think about it, when you drive along with your window down, thus having fresh air in your face, is this you experiencing nature? Is this you being immersed in our earth, enough so that if that’s all you ever experienced you’d love and care for this beautiful planet of ours?
Our children need to be hands-on and hearts-in with all the wonders nature has to offer us. They need to be touching, smelling, manipulating, creating, dreaming, and bonding with the items naturally found in ‘nature’s toy store’. This is where the richest of their experiences will come from. This is where they NEED to be.
Fresh air in the face is nice, it’s great to be outdoors instead of cooped up inside, but that single ingredient is not the stuff of genuine nature connection. Really there are only two key ingredients - the earth as is, (in all weather), and the child, as is.
These two are naturally connected and need to stay that way. If we provide the opportunity, the child is 100% capable of providing the experience. They’re the ones who take this simple recipe and turn into something magical.
Are you in Wellington? We are facilitating a workshop about reconnecting children with nature in ece. Check it out.