We visited the toddlers at our C.H Norton location just in time to join them on their nature walk. It’s cold out there, though, so after we bundled up in our coats, hats, mittens and boots, it was time to set out on our adventure!
The kids at C.H Norton are especially lucky – they have a lovely, wooded park just outside their playground. You may have to trek a little farther to find a forest, but we highly recommend you do!
While we headed into the forest, the darting squirrels caught almost everyone’s eye. “Look! There’s a squirrel up in that tree!” one child exclaimed. “There’s a brown one over there too!” The children began counting the squirrels they saw, and calling out the colours of their furry coats as they walked. We all learned that the squirrels aren’t just running around for fun; they’re collecting food to store for the winter. We also learned that what appears to be balls of leaves in the trees are actually squirrel nests; or “houses” as the kids said.
We reached a small clearing in the forest – complete with fallen logs which quickly became school buses. All of the children clambered aboard and took turns being the driver. “The wheels on the bus go round and round…” they sang. They even practiced stopping the bus safely to that “pedestrians” could cross in front of them.
After a sufficient amount of time was spent forest-frolicking, we had to go back to the playground. A few of the children asked if they could take leaves or sticks back with them. “No, I’m sorry” said the ECE, “if everyone took a piece of the forest with them when they left, there’d be no forest left for anyone.” The children understood. They love playing in the forest and want to keep it safe for their next visit.
So, what do nature walks do for your children?
They foster a sense of belonging.
The sense of belonging in a place (in this case, in the natural world around us) is fostered through a sense of understanding it. As the children walked through the forest, they learned more and more about how nature works (i.e how squirrels bury food for the winter) and felt comfortable in their surroundings. It is in this way that we help children to feel safe and content in places like the forest!
Nature walks help kids to learn to respect the environment.
On our nature walk, the kids were encouraged to leave things like the leaves sticks as they found them. For 2-3 year olds, this is exactly how we teach them to respect the environment. With consistent trips into nature throughout their lives, they will learn to be environmental advocates.
Nature is a perfect ready-made environment which promotes self-regulation
Self-regulation happens when a child evaluates the way they are feeling and is able to respond to or moderate these emotions in a way that is free from impulse. It is when a child can maintain a state of calm focus through constructive responses to their feelings, their peers, their teachers and the world around them.
The best moments that help promote self-regulation are the ones that are as free from stressors as possible. What could be a better environment for these moments to happen than outside in nature; with abundant space and peaceful quiet?
Moments in nature promote engagement
Nature is interesting. When you take a moment to stop, look and listen, you can see a slew of wonderful things happening all around you. The wind in the trees, the squirrels darting back and forth, the crunch of the leaves underfoot – it all holds your attention; it’s engaging! Nature walks inspire kids to be active, creative and to explore, play, and ask questions.
It’s good for your child!
This last point may seem obvious after all the ground we’ve covered – but it’s an important point none-the-less! A growing body of research suggests that a few moments spent communing with nature can support children’s mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health and well-being. Overall, we can’t say it any better – being out in nature, whether it’s a forest, park or playground, is excellent for you and your child!
We’d like to extend a big thank you to our C.H Norton child care centre for letting us come along on your nature walk!
Until next time,
– Today’s Family