Nature: A Beneficial Playground for Children
Children come alive when playing in nature in a way seldom seen in other settings. Nature is ever-changing, stimulating their curious minds to observe and explore something new each time they enter the woods. Their imaginations kick in automatically, and unique sounds and smells engage their attention while bringing out their sense of adventure.
Playing in nature fosters problem-solving. When children reach a stream that needs to be crossed, they hone their abilities to get quiet, observe the water’s movement, decide which rocks to step on and what branches to hold onto. They instinctively look for the path of least resistance.
Nature-based programs that take kids into the forest seem to open a confidence and innate joy in children. Building a primitive shelter with others, learning to forage for food and cooking on an open fire, with tools they created from natural materials, takes children into a new world of skills, insights and instincts they didn’t know they had. These experiences strengthen them mentally, emotionally and physically, and offer an important balance for tech-savvy kids who spend hours indoors and on screens.
Studies show that spending time in nature develops children’s brains in ways that help them become healthy and happy adults. Time spent in nature is a wellness prescription for all ages.
Karen Kovacs is president of the board of directors at Amethyst Retreat Center, in Duncannon, which offers wilderness programs for children and adults. For more information, visit AmethystRetreatCenter.org.