“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