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Wednesday, April 22nd marks Earth Day, a day on which we pay extra attention to our natural world and the myriad benefits it affords us by maybe going outside and marveling at its beauty. This year though, Earth Day is complicated by state-mandated stay-at-home orders that have families shut indoors for what can feel like never-ending days. Today, we will look at nature –inspired play as a means to enrich your child’s learning from home and reduce the many stressors that accompany this difficult time.
“Being able to explore and discover through nature-based play is a child's work. Earth day is a great reminder to us all that playing, inside or out, is foundational in children’s learning,” says Housman Institute founder Dr. Donna Housman. “It also can help relieve stress,” adds Dr. Housman who is also developer of the Institute’s flagship evidence-based program, begin to ECSEL that integrates nature-based play into its curriculum.
And while it’s certainly more difficult to get out in nature depending on where you are isolating (hello, concrete jungle dwellers!), parents should not underestimate the power of the outside to seed thought, whether at your local park, in your backyard, or even on your balcony. “There are infinite ways to interact with nature” says Dr. Housman, “Play, especially nature-based play, provides children’s sense of wonder with flight into another world that encourages flexibility of thought. It’s about the process, not the product, and a wonderful means to foster creativity and imagination,” she says.
Creativity is not the only benefit. Play through nature also builds confidence, while teaching children responsibility and providing them a sense of control during a time when many things can feel out of their control. They can plant seeds in a cup by the window or care for and inhale the fragrant scent of a Paper White, stimulating both touch and smell. Through activities like these, they can learn to be compassionate caretakers of the earth and bear witness to the cycles of life. They also can run through the grass, take a hike in the woods, or skip around the backyard, all of which can boost mood and reduce stress during stressful times.
Given all these benefits, it’s no wonder that most studies agree that kids who play outside are smarter, happier, more attentive, and less anxious than kids who spend more time indoors. And by the way, all the advantages that nature offers ring true for adults, too, especially for stress relief and mood improvement.
Concludes Dr. Housman: “Nature is a teacher like no other. It encourages learning through discovery, feeds curiosity, and ignites passions. Nothing is more empowering than that.”
So, happy Earth Day from the Housman Team. We hope you celebrate with some well-earned nature-inspired play and relaxation.
At Housman Institute, we believe our role is to nurture the social, emotional, and cognitive well-being of all students and educators without bias. It is critical that every child feel recognized and validated from their earliest days—to understand that their voice matters, regardless of background or experience and is being heard. We listen to, respect and support the needs of our educators as we recognize their critical role in a child's emotional growth and development. Together we need to begin the important work to help all our children and educators, as we move toward a more equitable environment for early learning, setting the stage for the building blocks of empathy and conflict resolution, and a more equitable future for us all. To learn more about how our program works to address equity in early childhood school communities... visit here.