Child Care

Children and Nature


I am sitting at my desk and working, but all too often my eyes are drawn to the sun shining through the window.  It is cold and everything is covered with snow, but I want to be outside.  Today I leave for nine days of beach living.  The current temperature at my planned destination is 86°.  I will spend every possible moment outdoors, soaking in fresh air and sun, exploring my surroundings, and simply enjoying the beauty of this incredible world God created.


It is so important for everyone to spend time in nature.  The frightening fact is that today’s children spend less and less time outdoors, for a variety of reasons.  As Mary Rivkin stated in her book, The Great Outdoors, “Children’s access to outdoor play has evaporated like water in sunshine.  It happened so fast, along with everything else in this speed-ridden century, that we have not coped with it.”  The National Recreation and Park Association did a 2010 study which found that spending time in nature resulted in higher levels of Social functioning, Psychological functioning, and Physical health in both children and adults.  So why aren’t we all outside?


Mary Rivkin lists 7 things that create barriers to outdoor play:

·         Concerns about safety - traffic

·         Concerns about safety – stranger danger fear

·         More people, less play space

·         Pollution and other environmental issues

·         Family schedules that limit outdoor play

·         The loss of recess time at school

·         The “Screen Time Phenomenon”


In our climate I would add an 8th:  there have been days this winter that we simply could not take the children outdoors.  The wind chill factor was so low that it would have been dangerous, even with the children clothed appropriately.  The “cabin fever” this has created this winter has intensified my desire to make as complete a use of our center’s natural surroundings as possible.


Surprisingly, even when it is nice we have children who simply do not want to go outside.  Richard Louv, in his book Last Child in the Woods, quotes a fourth-grader from San Diego:  “I like to play indoors better ‘cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are.”  We can dangle all the research facts we want in front of our children’s eyes, but until they learn the magic of the outdoors it will be hard to unplug them.


At our child care center we have the incredible gift of owning more than 15 acres of land, most of which is undeveloped.  A stream runs at the edge of the property; deer pass through frequently; we see rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks all the time.  Our goal is to make better use of this resource.  The project is still in the planning stages, but we intend to transform our traditional playground into a natural adventure zone.  We have lots of ideas, but until the snow melts the ideas must stay on paper.  Meanwhile, when the temperature finally gets into the double digits, we will enjoy the snow, building snowmen, climbing the mounds of snow at the edge of the parking lot, and sledding down our hill. 


I, however, will be ambling along a sunny beach. 

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