Time outside is incredibly valuable. It contributes to both our physical and mental wellbeing, promoting activity whilst providing a sense of connection and belonging. In our programs we see these benefits over and over again. At Bush Inventors’ Club, kids often arrive from their day, stressed, irritable and finding it difficult to focus. To counter this, we start our afternoon with a wilderness awareness game. Through the vehicle of play, we encourage kids to connect with their environment, be it through embodying an animal running at top speed, or lying still amongst the dirt, observing the tiniest of insects. The energy shifts within the group. Aggression and frustration are replaced with a calm focus.
In addition to the physical benefits of exercise, getting dirty outside can help children develop a healthy immune system. Albeit with best intentions, we adults can tend to prevent kids from being exposed to germs. However, current research is suggesting that exposure to certain germs can beneficial. A study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that if children were exposed to natural bacteria and allergens in their first year of life, they were less likely to develop allergies and asthma. Letting our kids play (and get messy!) outside, can support their growth into healthy adults.
By promoting nature play to our children, we equip them with valuable habits to take into their adult lives. In some countries, doctors have begun “prescribing” time in nature to patients, recognising its grounding and healing capabilities. If we develop an active outdoor lifestyle for our kids now, they can build a sense of safety, comfort and belonging in nature, assisting their development into healthy adults.