Posted on 04/18/2011 at 01:57 PM by Global Reach

Remember playing outdoors, making mud pies, building forts, digging in the dirt, playing made-up games in the woods, exploring an old log for bugs, chasing butterflies, riding a bike, or climbing a tree? Those times of unstructured outdoor play were important to our learning and to a lifelong appreciation of the outdoors.

Educators and mental health professionals are becoming increasingly concerned that many of today’s children are no longer able to spend unhurried hours exploring the natural world in the same ways that previous generations did. There has been a dramatic decrease in the amount of time children are spending outdoors. Between 1981 and 1997, on average, time spent outdoors decreased by four hours per week.

This disconnection from nature is contributing to the increase in childhood obesity, childrens' dislike and even fear of the outdoors, and the increase in behavior-regulating medications. 

Outdoor time needs to be seen as more than just recess. It is more than organized games and pre-built structures. It is a time to be creative, active and undirected.

“Early experiences with the natural world have been positively linked to the sense of wonder. This way of knowing, if recognized and honored, can serve as a life-long source of joy and enrichment, as well as an impetus or motivation, for further learning.”  This quote is from a new booklet I received this past week about creating nurturing outdoor spaces for children. (I assumed the booklet would be about playgrounds. However, the real topic was helping children and teachers regain the joys and educational benefits of playing outdoors in the natural world.)

Check out….Explore Nature: Learning with Nature Idea Book. It is a collaborative project of the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation. 

“The booklet is for anyone wishing to create or re-created outdoor spaces that nurture children’s sense of wonder and encourage rich learning.”

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