Children and the outdoors
As I was winging my way from Australia to the U.S. recently I found extra time for reading. Amongst my accumulated reading material was an article in Reader's Digest entitled “Making Mud Pies”, advocating outdoor experience for children to nourish both the brain and the body. I read through the article thinking “This is good. Our daughter and son-in-law spend a lot of time and effort engaging their children in outdoors experiences. And the school where I work, with a farm and environment centre attached, offers many opportunities for outdoor activity in addition to sport.”
Author Judsen Culbreth says, “Experts in early childhood development and neurosciences agree the natural world is the primary source of unfailing stimulation, the place that demands full use of the senses. As kids become immersed in touching, hearing, seeing, smelling and tasting, the bonanza of senses creates a complex architecture in the brain.”
Additional benefits of such experiences abound, says the article:
- Large and small muscles get a workout
- A rich supply of blood and oxygen bathe the heart, lungs and brain
- The skeletal system strengthens
- The body drinks in vital vitamin D from the sun
- Movement — governed by the cerebral cortex of the brain — is important to the learning process
Not only that. “The pleasure of being outdoors is fundamental to human happiness and well-being…” Gordon Orians, an ecologist and professor emeritus of biology at the University of Washing in Seattle is quoted as saying. He continues, “There's so much to learn about what all organisms can do. What a
source of delight to know about these things, to discover how exciting and wonderful the world is. Nature is absolutely stunning!”
Yes, nature is stunning and it can be a source of delight — because our great creator God designed it so (Ps. 104).
The recommendation of this article for the parents' role was:
- Set limits on indoor activity and organized sport, giving the child opportunity for free-flowing outdoor activity.
- Get out there yourself, showing how you value outdoor time.
- Take note of what your child enjoys and further nourish that joy.
These points brought to mind a number of scriptures, but two stand out:
- Just as God instructed the Israelites in Deuteronomy 6:7, “… to teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up”, the principle is the same with everything we wish to impress on our children. In other words, we need to spend time and energy with our children in engaging outdoor activity.
- Romans 1:20 instructs us, “For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”
As we worship the creator of all — and lead our children to do so — surely we will glorify our God and experience happiness and well-being, as well.