Every year parents in this country spend hundreds, and more likely thousands, of dollars on toys, games, and activities to engage and entertain their kids. These “things” may be great for keeping young minds and bodies active, but many of them are unnecessary. Kids need structured play yes, but they also need “free” and unstructured play and this is easy to do when the world’s largest playground is right outside your back door. Why not let them play outside?
Every toy, book, and TV show that comes out has been designed and redesigned several times in order to make it educational and entertaining for children. Millions of dollars are spent trying to find the best ways to market to your kids and hook them for life. The great thing about nature is that, while being entertaining and stimulating to the imagination, it’s also educational and stimulating to their minds in a way that toys cannot compete with. Nature can teach children the basics of science, economics, and creativity.
It’s affordable too! Depending on where you live, exploring nature is usually pretty inexpensive, if not completely free. It may mean adventuring in your backyard, a local park, or perhaps going to the local nature preserve or state park (which usually have low cost fees or memberships). This way, you don’t have to pay for expensive toys (which lose their luster quickly), jungle gyms, or memberships to expensive entertainment centers, but you still get the benefit of stimulating and educational play. Cheap is a mom’s or dad’s best friend in this economy.
Nature makes kids think. Lately there’s been a trend in education towards inquiry based learning. Researchers have found that if students explore and experiment to figure out answers on their own, they’re going to learn more efficiently, and retain more of that information. It also helps them develop skills to be able to learn things on their own later. What better environment to learn things than out in nature. There are lessons for kids of all ages to discover about the world around them.
It may also help the planet. Children will not protect what they do not love. What better way to help do your part than to get your children interested in their own planet than right now when they’re young and impressionable? What might be a fun time for them now, might be a future hobby, career, or world saving invention. At the very least, the nature play they experience now, can motivate them to protect the environment for their own children later on.
Nature play is also fun. Nature gives kids a chance to use their imagination and be free to just be kids. Other forms of entertainment seem like they work to help them grow up and mature faster than what is normal.
While unstructured play outside is great for kids, you can also find a lot of places offering structured classes and learning sessions for kids that focus on the natural world. Check your local park, science center, zoo, or museum. There’s a good chance they have classes you can sign up for, and since many of these places are not for profit, they’re usually affordable as well as informative.
Spending time in the outside world is so important for developing minds. It can also be a great escape for you as well. Take your children outside and create some memories and learning experiences.