What if you could give your child a magical pill that significantly reduces stress, improves cognition AND improves memory AND has ZERO negative side effects?
Would you break the bank to give it to them?
Of course you would!
Because you are awesome!
That magical pill is all around us. We just have to leave our front doors in order to access all of nature’s wondrous medicinal, emotional and cognitive benefits.
It’s not a secret that American schools have been lagging well behind the world academically at 27th place in the global rankings. The majority of top ranking schools are primarily located in Nordic regions such as Finland and Denmark. Those same countries rank well above the United States in happiness and quality of living with very low rates of poverty or unemployment. In some of the coldest regions of the world children are learning outside for part or all of the day well before covid. Researchers have found that learning outside and spending time in nature improves not just cognition but overall working memory, improved fine and gross motor development as well as provides better emotional stability.
You can learn more about Finland’s forest schools here https://healingforest.org/tag/forest-schools-of-finland/
Children have been learning outside since the beginning of time. Humans evolved to be living as a part of the environment and not completely separate from it. Sometimes, moving to sit outside to read a story can transform a child who is having trouble concentrating to one who is engaged and engrossed in a good book.
If a peer reviewed study by the NIH showing the cognitive benefits floats your boat in order to get onboard with with getting outside then here is one for you. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6616085/
Have you noticed the dramatic increase in the need for occupational therapy for children to learn to tie their shoes, write somewhat legibly, or button their clothing? Spending increasing levels of time indoors and apart of the natural environment prevents children from developing necessary physical skills.
How can you learn outdoors? How can you not? Opportunities to learn are everywhere from studying fractals and Fibonacci sequences in milk weed plants while learning about monarchs and migration and then watching hawks fly to learning about angles and trigonometry by studying suspension bridges or bicycles and perhaps build one-you can take it as far as you can imagine it and it’s infinite not finite like within a static room.
Personally, my younger kid and I are watching for hawks migrating and when we go to these local parks to see this happening we are also stepping into American history since if you have a cliff on the northern New Jersey coastline then there’s a good chance Washington and his troops also set up camp there. Most of the parks and their accompanying websites are filled with information to make the visits that much more interesting.
Simply taking a walk around the block is enough to increase your heart rate, take in more oxygen and get your kids ready to learn.
When you choose to go outside and let your kids observe what’s going on they start generating questions which create more questions….(which YES it can be as annoying as F) but it is also beautiful letting your kids innate curiosity shine through. When they’re curious they learn more. For example, a girl I’m working with loves hawks and she asked when hawks would be migrating from northern NJ. During our search we learned that hawks are the indicators of the health of the ecosystem since they don’t have any natural predators which led to the follow up question, how does the ecosystem look? Why? What is significant that is happening right now (this wouldn’t be in a text book yet). The questions are able to expand because of the topic just like learning should.
How does this look for a child who is working hard at virtual school? Every 40-45 minutes send them outside for fifteen minutes for free time and let them do whatever they want out there. After school get outside even if just for a short walk around the block.
Interesting tidbit: Did you know that low levels of Vitamin D contribute to how severely someone is afflicted with COVID and causes depression?
Why are you dealing with your kid asking you the same question 13 times and having a meltdown over a math equation or a zoom fail while you’re trying to work when the panacea is just outside that door?