“Children are disappearing from the outdoors at a rate that would make them top of any conservationist’s list of endangered species if they were any other member of the animal kingdom” – Tim Gill
Children benefit immensely from an outdoor and adventure summer camp. All the advantages mentioned in the previous blog of different interactions and interventions with outdoors can be achieved in a summer camp collectively. Children learn life skills and life lessons which are usually beyond the scope of their regular schooling. Summer camp, according to the study, fosters emotional intelligence (or EQ), self-confidence, independence, healthy living, environmental awareness, learning, leadership and other skills that prove beneficial long into adulthood. They have enormous amount of fun. They become more alive and enthusiastic towards life. They learn to observe and be one with nature. In this process, children push their boundaries; expand their horizons, feel like natural and empowered leaders with empathy and end up discover themselves in many ways. Outdoor summer camps nourish children’s will, spirit and their whole being. Let’s explore how?!
Children lack the time and opportunities for unstructured play. Children are mostly playing indoors with their gadgets or involved in structured play. While they have their benefits, children’s well being, learning and exhilaration of energy, enthusiasm and feel good factor is tremendous in outdoor unstructured play. O&A camps offer more chances for creativity, risk taking, leadership and problem solving. It also teaches them to be open to new outcomes. There is a height sense of accomplishment and zeal that comes through this form of play. These experiences imprint on children values for a lifetime
School of Life skills
Significant raise in self confidence is observed. Children find means to express problem solving abilities. They are open to uncertainty and challenges that come their way. They are willing to move out of their comfort zones and are open to challenges. Their innate leadership qualities and working together abilities find expression. With every successful completion of activity or challenge a sense of accomplishment seeps into children. They change the way they see themselves and others. They choose and shape values for themselves individual and as a group. This builds their interpersonal and intrapersonal skills. They mould their personality through these experiences.
Our lifestyle and comfort has retarded physical activity. The O&A camp is full of it! Children are always in action and movement. Be it hiking, walking, rappelling, jumping, zip lining or obstacle courses or climbing a tree or jumping into a lake. They are active, alive, awake and enthusiastic. Surprisingly, children are never tired, it is as though they are running on endless fuel of enthusiasm and energy. This zeal continues even after the camp is over!
Tends both Cognitive and emotional sides
Outdoor & Adventure camps instill the joy of learning. This comes from tending their thinking and emotional sides through powerful learning experiences. In these camps children are learning and absorbing one thing or the other throughout the camp. Sometimes, consciously and sometimes unconsciously but they are learning throughout. They also learn to think in different perspectives and dimensions. They learn both linear and systems thinking. They reflect upon experiences and behaviors. Imagination and creative skills are heightened in O&A camps. Be it through stories or problem solving or through art and craft. It is seen that children trade their limitations of body, mind and heart and darn the courage to imagine. This ability deepens learning, emotions and cognition beyond the camp as well.
Builds relationships and friendships
O&A camps enable children of varied age groups and personalities engage with each other. The activities are a blend of individual and team work. They live, play, eat and go to bed with each other. Camps are cradles of vulnerabilities. It is a place where the most natural selves and instincts are expressed. This fosters relationship and understanding and empathy towards themselves and with others who are different from oneself. They give and receive, help and be helped, they share food and conversations and also fears. They realize how similar and dissimilar they are. They see children with different attitudes and environments. This exposure itself is a great learning experience and influences children’s quality of relationships.
Love for nature
There is no need to stress the importance or benefits of being in nature. The fresh air, being surrounded by trees and shrubs, waking up to twittering birds, watching sunrise and sunset, lying down under night sky and watching stars evoke wonder and love for nature. In natural spaces, children are natural too. They find joy in simple things, pleasure in simple doings, nature restores innocence in children. When children fall in love with nature they fall in love with themselves, too. When they know nature, they know themselves, too. How they treat nature is how they treat themselves, too. Being in nature is being with themselves, too. Nature is a reflection of one’s inner being. O&A camps provide nature experiences throughout the duration.
With the help of the facilitator or an adult or through their own observation children learn to observe patterns and interconnections that exist in nature. Children exposed to activities are thoughtfully chosen to deepen their understanding about the functioning and laws of nature. Such experiences influence their thinking, actions and decision making even as adults. Thus, their engagement with nature and environment will be conscious and driven by insight and responsibility. This carves them as adults who are empowered and pro earth. This is of paramount importance!
Outdoors and adventure is quintessential for children’s wellbeing and O&A summer camps do their best to provide it.
Outlife Experiential Education.
Where Nature Where?
In this heavily networked and connected world, we have lost touch with ourselves. There is so much emphasis on socializing but the feeling of isolation and loneliness hovers in all us. We are living in a paradoxical world with conflicting needs and actions taken to fulfill those needs. What has also changed drastically is “organicness” in us and our choices and we are passing on this epidemic to our children. Can spending time in the outdoors slow down or reverse this change? Can outdoors restore organic nature in our lives especially our children? If yes, Where is nature?
Where is nature? Where is outdoors? How and when do we expose children to the outdoors? When I look outside of my window, I mostly see apartments and flats and gated communities. I see some green cover that is mostly there for decorative purposes. Mostly, cemented or tar roads; no uneven paths with grass and puddles. Where will children run freely with traffic, vehicles and strangers on roads? What if my child touches something or eats something that will cause a cold, an allergy or an infection? How can I make sure my child is safe? Where and how do I start?
What are the available accesses to nature and outdoors? How do we create more accessibility to outdoor play spaces? The crux of this article is to explore doors and windows that lead children to the world of outdoors.
Playgrounds are cradles of spontaneous, unstructured play. Generally, playgrounds are a part of educational institutions and housing complexes with wide open spaces and some play equipments such as swings, slides and monkey bars. They are also used for structured play. Play ground setting touches all areas of child development especially motor development, body coordination and balance, imagination and creativity. Spontaneous play encourages children to think quickly and be open to uncertainty. Free play nurtures interpersonal skills, trust building and communication. Thus, spending time in the play grounds is time invested in well being.
Gardens and Farms
Gardening and farming is a sensory experience for children. They touch and feel the soil and life, seeds and flowers, see the vibrant colors and varied sizes of the plants, insects and birds, can hear birds and insects and smell the amazing scents of the flowers and mud. Children climbing trees, laying with leaves and twigs, digging soil and planting is a holistic experience in itself. They are introduced to life processes and they are part of something coming to life. They learn to nurture and qualities of planning, patience and hard work. Gardening and farming teaches children take responsibility and environmental significance. Children who spend time with plants are seen to be more instinctive and intuitive. Spending time in the farms and gardens can be a sublime experience.
Local parks are good contacts for children with nature. Grass beds with bordering trees and bushy plants are soothing to the eyes and spirit. Pavements for walking and strolling are a breather for children and people of all age groups. Parks provide spaces to play, make friends, enjoy, relax and unwind. The cool breeze and chirping birds teamed with conversations and laughter is a seemingly ideal way to spend every day evenings. Visiting local parks regularly can provide children spaces to free play, foster their physical, mental and emotional health. It is also a place to meet new children and also people of varied ages and backgrounds and play or engage with them in different ways.
National parks and Zoos
National Parks and Zoos makes it feasible to witness wildlife which otherwise cannot be seen, usually especially wild animals. All animals are usually caged or placed in restricted and artificially created environments that mimic their natural ones. Children can see these animals in reality which otherwise would have been in their natural habitats, wild and free. National parks and zoos might ignite enthusiasm and awe towards animals resulting in a surge of excitement in children. Personally this is something I am not in agreement with. Caging animals however conducive it might be, impedes the animal in many ways. A child watching these animals in this manner paints a false picture of the animal and wildlife might be reduced to a mere entertainment affair. Nonetheless, an enjoyable experience for children.
Forests and wildlife sanctuaries
Trails, safaris and jungle stays are a substantive experience of nature. Forests ecology with trees, plants, mosses, creepers and ferns with wild animals, birds and insects is an experience. Unaltered with woody roots, creaky branches, crunching path can fill us with wonder and unruffle us at the same time. The sounds of chirping birds and croaking frogs and crickets and cicadas can put us in state of tranquility. Forests teach us so much and alter us completely. The forests have something for each one of us especially, children. As rightly said – “Once you enter the forest, you never return the same”
Besides that, the purpose of visiting the forest and the people with whom we share our time and experience counts. Free play is not a feasible in the forests or sanctuaries. The possibility of children visiting the forests solely depends on the parents and adult’s affinity towards wildlife. If the parents are fearful or hesitant towards wilderness there are very little chances that the child would visit a forest. A naturalist or a person who is familiar and has some knowledge about the wildlife and ecology can deepen our learning experience in the forests and wildlife sanctuaries. Therefore, forests though enriching for children, the probabilities of accessing it is lean.
Treks and trails
Trekking and hiking is a transforming experience of children and adults. The wooded heaven, the beaten elevated trails, unexpected spotting of birds and animals can fill us with humility. Trekking with minimal resources and challenging themselves to push and adjust to adversities can shape them as independent and resilient individuals. Children develop leadership qualities, boast their confidence and self image and learn endurance. Children and adults who trek together deepen their relationships with each other. They also learn to respect and value nature. They tend to be more sensitive to themselves and others including plants and animals. They learn life lessons through direct experience and reflection. Physical and mental health is an inevitable consequence of trekking. Children become more aware and well-informed about geography, environmental science or wildlife. Treks can be easily considered as a one stop solution for life.
In the past few months, how many fliers do you come across in a day that announces “Summer camps”? Art to Robotics, Baking to Storytelling; Crafts to Culture, so many of them. They are there everywhere, social media, newspapers and Whatsapp groups. Some stand out and are offbeat and some seem like they are all the same. One of the offbeat summer camps would be Outdoor and Adventure summer camp.
What are these outdoor and adventure summer camps? Why would I want to send my children to O&A camp and not a robotics camp? Why climb trees and do cave man things when technology is the thing, right?! If these are your questions and dilemmas then the next article is the answer for you. We will explore the benefits of sending your children to an Outdoor and Adventure summer camp. We will see how these O&A camps can instill love for nature and belongingness in the outdoors in children and also avail to its insurmountable benefits of nature.
Outlife Experiential Education
Continued from back-to-nature-part-1.html
“Here is this vast, savage, howling mother of ours, Nature, lying all around, with such beauty, and such affection for her children, as the leopard; and yet we are so early weaned from her to society, to that culture which is exclusively an interaction of man on man.” – Henry David Thoreau
What are all these great researchers, scientists and activists talking about? Is nature really that vital? Does it have such a magnanimous impact and influence on our children? In this article let us explore why it is important and necessary for children to spend time in the outdoors.
Outdoors is the lab of life. Nature and outdoors stimulate a lifelong learner in every child. In nature, children can access elements of themselves which otherwise would be slumbering. It awakens children to life. Nature fosters, involves, nourishes and evolves children. Nature is the garden of heaven and children belong there! Some tangible benefits of spending time in the outdoors are:-
Overall well being of the child
Playing outside our houses takes us inside of ourselves. Fresh air and open skies is invigorating for a child. Playing in the outdoors is a phenomenal sensory stimulation for the child. Fine motor skills, gross motor skills, hand eye coordination, concentration, paying attention can be improved in children with outdoor exposure. Nature enhances functioning of the brain and increases analytical skills. Children who play in the outdoors are much stronger and have better immune systems. Their body balance is also enhanced. They are more alive and filled with enthusiasm; they are more alert and agile. Nature inspires and motivates them. It inspires children to wander and wonder. Spending time in the outdoor nourishes mind, body and spirit of the child.
Nature is the laboratory of life. Childhood is a very impressionable age and outdoors offers all the necessary requirements needed to develop and shape children’s personalities. Outdoors have everything that could nourish the child. Children pick up behaviors, attitudes and attributes that serve the growth of children into holistic human beings. Nature is a safe place for them to try out new aspects or discover hidden aspects of themselves. These opportunities enables them to be risk takers, being open to challenges, being empathetic and cooperative, nurture their creative abilities, thinking in perspectives and build resilience. They foster their own growth and development in the outdoors.
Outdoors provide stimulation for heart, mind and body. It provides umpteen opportunities where children learn through exploration and discovery. Children are innate scientists and love to experience the sights, scents, sounds, and textures of the outdoors. Nature provides countless opportunities for discovery, creativity, problem-solving, and finding solutions. They not only discover about nature, they also discover about themselves. Outdoors teaches learning a journey and a process and equips them to carve their own journeys.
Open to uncertainty
Nature is full of surprises, it open and constantly changing. Nature is very mysterious and full of wonder. It might be a sudden change in the weather or spotting a caterpillar perfectly camouflaged. Being open to uncertainty is a very vital lesson for children about life coz life is uncertain. It moves children out of their comfort zones and boredom. It teaches important lessons of cause and effect. Uncertainty opens doors to the new and unknown. It allows children to explore, fail and try again. Children are more independent and autonomous, which is very important.
Opens doors for creativity
Outdoors enable children to be free flowing, flexible and open minded. Their thought flow and mind activity is not hindered but nourished. This opens their creative channels and they also find opportunities to use and express them. When children express their creativity they alter how they see themselves, their thinking abilities expand, and they are more contented with themselves and more willing to push their boundaries.
Enables social development
When children play in the outdoors, they seldom play alone. They are constantly interacting with other children and also adults. They mingle with different personalities and age groups, too. They connect, collaborate, help and seek help, learn and share. They learn to manage themselves and also manage other children. They alter their temperaments to suit the nature of the group. They are together in play and crisis. These experiences foster and shape their social behavior for life. They have shared experiences and shared memories together. This will deepen their mental, emotional and social well being.
Cures many conditions, disorders and disabilities
Several studies have proved the therapeutic benefits of being in the outdoors. It has been proved that spending time in the outdoors has reduced ADHDs, learning disabilities, helps slow learners, autistic children and several other conditions. Children with developmental delays have also shown considerable improvements after spending time in the outdoors.
Opportunities for outdoor play are diminishing as a consequence of globalization, technology expansion and urban growth. A growing culture of fear about the possible accidents that might happen and overprotection of the child is affecting parent's attitude towards outdoor play, so children tend to be kept inside, occupied with structured activities, and controlled by adults. These fears are often hindering natural growth and real expression of children. This transformation is regressing the growth and development of the child. This calls for us to ensure children have sufficient time in nature and outdoors and play as much as possible. Let nature pour its goodness into the well being of our children.
The question is where is this nature? Where is this outdoors? How and when do we expose children to the outdoors? When I look outside of my window, I mostly see apartments and flats and gated communities. I see some green cover that is mostly there for decorative purposes. Mostly, cemented or tar roads; no uneven paths with grass and puddles. Where will children run with traffic, vehicles and strangers on roads? What if my child touches something or eats something that will cause a cold, an allergy or an infection? How can I make sure my child is safe? Where and how do I start?
Are some of the above questions that bother you as a parent? Find answers in the next article! The question again remains how do we access outdoors and provide such deep and meaningful experiences to our children?
Outlife Experiential Education
“If you see me sitting on a chair and lost; I might be lost in the lanes of my childhood and revisiting my innocence” - Unknown
Pause, Lean back; stretch your legs and close your eyes. Now, gentle slip back to the best days of your lives. Let me guess, you slipped back to your childhood days! Isn’t? What were you doing? What is around you? Were you running or swooping on a swing? Jumping or hoping or climbing a tree? Chasing or hiding behind a wall? Making mud piles and laughing endlessly on the sand pit or jumping puddles of rain and joy? Were you? What was it like for you? Did you see many plants and trees and cute little puppies? Did you smell rain or mud?
Childhood were the days of mindless laughter, aimless running, and inquisitively exploring old unconstructed buildings. We were lost in time and space with games and activities. Those were the days of ungrounded imagination and creativity and spontaneity. Days of innocent stories and thoughtless questions. We made friends with kids of the adjacent lanes. We had falls and frequently hurt our legs and tried everything possible to hide it from our parents. Crazy isn’t? Our wants were so little and joys were insurmountable. We were hiding and seeking ourselves. We were hop scotching life lasting memories. Little did we know that years later we would look back at those days and sigh –“Those were the days!”
Our childhood was predominantly in the outdoors isn’t? In the long lanes lined with trees and plants, open grounds with barbed wires, grass beds with puddles, gardens with flowers and fluttering butterflies and hovering dragonflies; trees with fruits and chirping birds! It was unstructured, unbridled and yet so beautiful! Nothing less than a fantasy, right?
Coming to the now, you are most likely to see your children sitting on a couch than a heap of sand; holding a gadget instead of a pile of sticks. They are most likely to be watching cartoons rather than creating fantasies with their imagination. They are most likely to be debating about the budget of the movie than awing about how their favourite superhero flew from a high raised building. They are most likely to be sending friend requests than reaching out to a friend in the neighboring lane. Now are the days of PSP and GTA Vice city than open grounds and Lagori. The past 20-30 years technological advancements has shape shifted our environments and drastically changed the fabric of our lives. Beneath this fabric, there is an undercurrent of fear. Several studies suggest that fear has been the driving force of our choices and our actions.
Several studies also suggest that the shift in the fabric of our lifestyle has led to children being obese and sedentary. We see children preferring to eat fat greased and processed food than healthy options. Children are more likely to be seen indoors and lost in their gadgets than engaging in play or conversations with people or kids. They are more prone to restlessness and boredom. Their resilience power is meager and the ability to adapt to any change or discomfort is scanty. This makes them susceptible mentally and physically.
More and more children are diagnosed with learning disabilities and millennial allergies and phobias. Being outdoors involves the whole body, mind and heart. This involvement enhances learning abilities and channelizes their energy towards learning in comparison to just working the body or the mind in isolation. Outdoor play enables the child to build resistance and immunity to various allergens, diseases etc., In play, they are more open to face and overcome their fears such fear of insects or heights or even social shyness. They develop to be more resilient, courageous and strong individuals.
In the context of well being of the children, does fear and fastness of our lifestyle have certain consequences on children? Has it altered our parenting style? Has this fear led us to insulate our children from the spirit of childhood? Are children are “growing" too fast?
A lot of research has been done in the recent past to prove the benefits of children playing in the outdoors and unstructured play and adventure. And, this research confirms that the wellbeing of the child has a direct connection with the amount of time they spend in the outdoors. Studies have also shown that when exposed to nature, children love spending more time in the outdoors amidst trees and birds than indoors. And, this exposure immediately results in positive developments in children, physical, intellectually and emotionally.
Engagement with nature seems like just fun and physical activity but the children benefit in comprehendible ways. As Pluto rightly said –“We learn a lot more about a person in an hour of play than a year full of conversations”.
The question is – Really? Does nature and time in the outdoors have such a phenomenal impact on children? How do I know for sure that, free play and outdoor time is quintessential for the holistic development of my child? Can’t nature be replaced by technology? And virtual learning? If these are the questions or similar questions popping in your head then wait for the next article !
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Author: Ashwini Govind