Friday, November 27, 2009


Let's use our creativity to help children wake up to the wonders of nature

TIM, a four-year-old boy, was afraid to walk on grass. The reason: he had never experienced the feeling of grass against the soles of his feet.

His parents were either ignorant of the necessity for contact with nature or chose a routine where their children had no quality interaction with nature.

As primary educators, parents and teachers have the opportunity to teach the wonderful subject called Nature. Let's call upon our creativity to help children wake up to the wonders of nature. In doing so, we need to address how we live as adults. And how we are going to encourage kids to have fun outdoors.

Studies have shown that 80% of a child's knowledge is attained through vision. Through their vision, their young brains learn to read, identify and understand their surroundings and settings. For the physical brain and eyes to grow well, children require appropriate nutrition, including DHA, AA, taurine and chorine, Especially in the early years. But what about their psychological well-being?

A growing body of literature illustrates that the natural environment has profound effects on the well-being of children, including better psychological wellbeing and superior cognitive functions. When children play in a natural environment, their play is more diverse. The use of imaginative and creative play fosters language and collaborative skills.

The modern family has developed around a cog of accessories rather than necessities. Accessories are subsidiaries which come along with something more crucial and important, but are in fact non-essentials. Count the number of necessities you have and the number of accessories present. Shocked?

Another thought – this discrepancy is only in your immediate small environment. If you work out your accessory versus necessity ratio in every aspect of life, what a frightening finds it might be. What does this imply? It implies that we live with more things that we do not need. We engage in more non-essential existence and behaviors than we should. This pathological reality of the lack of necessity driven behavior in our daily existence is very unhealthy and does not provide us with a hopeful prognosis.

Avoiding all the psycho-jargon and theoretical waffle, we arrive at two simple words to help us differentiate between accessories and necessities – "wants" and "needs". What are your wants now? What do others want? Do you want them too? Frivolous as it may sound, it is quite central to how we develop our insatiable desire for more wants than needs.

Here's a shocker – most children learn to live like their parents. Sadly, as we accommodate more and more of these nonessentials, we grow away from what we need – the bare necessities. Death, disaster, disease and other extreme wake-up calls often shock us into reality and we re-arrange our priorities. We also discard many accessories – we get back to basics.

We do not have to wait for such unpleasant lessons and teachers.

Perhaps the greatest teacher is Nature and the greatest classroom is out there with Mother Nature. "Bare" you to nature and you will find that, stripped of all your cling-on, you might suddenly feel you cannot survive.

Your fears, anxieties and a whole gamut of emotions kick in when you are challenged to live. You prioritize your needs.

One interesting strategy is to invite nature in. Use your resources from TV to DVDs and live specimens. Bring nature in by growing plants or keeping pets.

Another strategy is to use friends who share a similar philosophy about nature. Initiate a rotation system where families share nature-related experiences. They could bring pets around, and enjoy outings together.

One thing is central to any nature-centered activity: Always answer questions. Even if you do not know the answer, admit it and follow through with active problem-solving.

As a primary educator overseeing your child's growth and wellbeing, get back to basics yourself.

Try the following:

· Spend more time outdoors. Be aware of what happens outdoors or in the garden.

· List nature-related activities you can do together. If your children are not able to do it with you, at least ensure that they are watching you.

· Gradually get them involved in nature-related activities. It gives them a sense of comfort.

· Get others involved. It increases positive reinforcement of the activity.

· Read up and teach simple things about nature.

· Record every nature-related question your child asks. If you don't know the answer, make an attempt to find out. Better still, find out together.

· Sign up or organize nature-related activities. Make sure that the planning is fun-related.

· Slow down. Stop living life in a hurry. Stop looking for instant gratification. Go out and commune with Nature. – Article courtesy of Abbott Nutrition Malaysia