At three years old my own son Jack was given a very expensive camera by his grandparents, which I thought was a 'crazy' idea. Nanna and grandad said "the lens of the camera will help him look more closely at nature, and if he looks more closely he will see its beauty. Those that see the beauty will spend a lifetime reaping its benefits and will be the future custodians. Ultimately this will be beneficial to all of us, as Jack will learn to care for our planet".
I've come to realise the amazing ethos in this. During the early years children learn faster than at any other time, and it is very difficult to separate them from their immediate environment. They are curious about their environment and interact with it constantly. By giving children time to explore outdoors amongst natural objects we allow them more time to move, to notice and to stretch their bodies and minds. They learn about themselves and the world around them.
Learning for children is about the head, the heart and hands, what they already know and connections made through new experiences, what they feel and what they understand.
However, spending time outside, isn't necessary an indicator of nature connection. I think the most important thing is to nurture five pathways:
Senses - Use senses to explore and notice nature
Emotion - Create a bond with and love for nature
Beauty - Notice and capture the beauty in nature
Meaning - Consider what nature means to us
Discussion - Discuss what we could do for nature
I always have this in mind when we go out and a picture in mind of my tiny son Jack, with a very big camera to his eye. He has never stopped noticing the beauty and his lens still goes everywhere with him.
This week we have returned to Highcliffe Castle twice, exploring the house and grounds, the stunning coastline and enjoyed Forest School in the nature reserve.
The ocean has such a calming effect. A real therapeutic boost. We had great fun exploring a plethora of different textures: dry sand, wet sand, rocks, shells, seaweed, water, warm sand, cold sand, wind etc. All the time we were improving motor skills, raising awareness of how the world works, building language and nurturing those five special pathways.
Wednesday was spent wandering through Fisherman's Walk eagerly looking for the next nature board, before reaching the pond and finally the coast.
We've had another 'walk and talk' trail to the local park, and finished our week making new friends at Stepping Stones.