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  • Writer's pictureDana Webster

Natural Habitat

Recently, I spent a delightful couple of hours with a friend and her young children while we walked the trails at a local park. Actually, our party consisted of two moms with a total of five children under the age of twelve. And a dog named Jacob. And, me. The time spent reminded me of how busy young families are and how constant parenting is when your kids are whirlwind balls of high-energy. For the most part, the kids occupied themselves with carrying armfuls of branches, planning the building of a fort, asking for snacks and water, climbing trees and tramping in the mud. Just as kids should be doing in a forest. It all felt so natural, so free.

Play Outside There's a reason for that. According to the Harvard Medical School, time spent with Mother Nature is crucial to children's mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health. The top six benefits (as borrowed from the website) are: 1. Sunshine 2. Exercise 3. Executive function 4. Taking risks 5. Socialization 6. Appreciation of nature I saw all of these elements at play (pun alert!) on our walk. Trapped Inside I remember, a few years ago, I was visiting at the home of a couple with one young son. His friends had stopped by to ask him to come play at the park which was directly across the road from the house. When asked if he could go along, the parents responded, and I quote, "What? No, you can't go outside," as though it was the most absurd request they'd ever heard. "You have plenty of videos and video games in your room to play with." And, it's true, he did. Several book shelves packed to the gills with videos.

High Park Forest School, Toronto, 1915

Forest Schools With the pandemic this year, I know some parents have been trying to find alternatives to traditional classrooms and schools. Some floated the idea of bringing back the Forest Schools of yore. Personally, I think it's a great idea but let's do away with the rows of desks and other trappings of an industrialized education system. Kids don't need it. They learn so much better when their bodies are engaged in the lessons. Because, remember, children are high-energy kinesthetic beings; they experience life through their senses - what they see, touch, smell and hear. To put the focus of education on kid brains, as though the mind is a separate entity from the rest of the person, is misguided and does our children a huge disservice. I have an open invitation to join my friend and her kids whenever they go for a hike. I am thrilled. Children who are engaged, energized, curious, and free in their natural habitat is a joy to behold. Like what you've read? Consider subscribing!

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