I don’t know about you guys, but I grew up spending most afternoons and all summer climbing trees, wading creeks, and exploring the woods behind my grandmother’s house. To this day, the earthy smell of the forest takes me to my happy place.
Here at HPUMP, we recently celebrated Pumpkin Festival with a variety of exciting activities with which children could engage. The Atelier set up shop on the nature trail behind our PlayScape providing invitations for children to paint trees, make leaf prints, and work in the Forest Fairy Kitchen.
Watching these young children happily exploring these invitations was certainly rewarding, but it couldn’t compare to the unbridled joy I saw on young faces as they chased each other along the shady trail or pointed out interesting things such as moss, tree bark, stones, and—a favorite—roly-poly bugs and other tiny forest dwellers.
It can be easy to underestimate the power of and the need for time outside—really outside—in nature. Children of all ages need to feel dirt and mud on their bare feet and hands; they need to see how the sun filters through a canopy of leaves and hear the wind whispering through those same leaves; children need to feel and smell the rain, to closely examine life right under our feet. How does an inchworm move? Why does a roly-poly bug roll up into a ball?
These kinds of experiences and questions build brain connections, strengthen understanding, build confidence, pique curiosity—all things that make us smarter, kinder, more curious, and more creative. Add in the sensorial beauty of nature, and you’re on the way to cultivating life-long lovers of learning.
All that from just spending a little time in the woods. Priceless.