Children in Nature: The Health Benefits By Laura Kennedy
In nature there is no sensory overload, we can regulate our bodies with ease, almost as though nature knows how much stimulation we can cope with and provides us with just that amount. I know myself that I never feel better, physically or mentally, than when I am in nature or have just spent a significant time there. So why aren’t we all spending more time outdoors?
How forest school helped Clara speak up
Take for instance Clara*, a quiet four year old with a speech and language difficulty, and a lack of confidence in her communication skills as a result. After just two sessions of Forest School, every Wednesday afternoon she would return home and regale her mum with stories of all her adventures in the woods that day. Her speech had not improved and her mum still had difficulty in understanding her. What had changed, however, was that she had important tales to tell, and she was bursting to share them. She found the confidence to speak up in spite of her difficulties in articulating it all, and somehow found her voice and an audience who were only too thrilled to listen. To speak with her mum about how life-changing this small moment was for both of them and the rest of the family, I could not but feel proud that I was able to provide the environment that allowed this young girl to thrive.
How forest school helped James grow into his true self
James* is a highly intelligent young boy who needs to be able to move about and expend his energy as it builds, not just at designated school break times. A traditional classroom setting sets James up for failure, as he does not fit into the mould that we expect of our young children, being seated in a classroom for close to six hours with just two short breaks during that day. However, in a Forest School setting James appears to be a different child, in fact who we meet is his true self. He can move about freely, engaging with nature as it presents itself rather than on a scheduled time table drawn up by a teacher. He self-regulates, allowing him to reconcile situations before they escalate, and therefore is very popular amongst his peers, whereas indoors his ability to react positively to a difficult situation is challenged by the confines of the environment. Allowing James the space to grow into his true self is a joy to observe.
Happy, confident children
These are just two tales of two children who found their voice and their true self in the woods. I could follow both of these up with a story of every child that I have had the pleasure of encountering on my journey wondering wild. Being outdoors in nature is undoubtedly the most natural environment for children and the benefits are long lasting. We see children who are co-operative and aware of others and their surroundings, whose language and communication skills improve, whose self-esteem and confidence grow, whose physical skills are enhanced and who are motivated to learn. Children with reduced anxiety and increased energy, but most of all, we see happy children. What more could you ask for than that?
Excerpt taken from Laura's blog - "Wondering Wild", definitely worth a visit. Laura is hosting the Survival Skills Summer Camp at Brigit’s Garden. Children will benefit from five days immersed in nature, engaging with their natural environment and learning the skills essential to survive in the wilds. Phone 091 550905 to book.
*names have been changed to protect identity.
There are big and small steps we can all take to help reverse climate change and look after our precious natural environment. With the Nature's Power project Brigit's Garden aims to be on the forefront of sustainability education. Our grateful thanks to our funding agencies
Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) and project partners NUI, Galway and Tipperary Energy Agency.