Thursday, 6 March 2014

Children and the Oh-so-powerful force of Nature

A fresh drop of cold water lands on the soft, supple, unmarked palms of her hands, and trickles down, tracing a fresh wet path down and around her wrists.
She giggles.

She then wraps her cold, plump fingers around mine and guides the edges of my chipped, dirty nails along the window pane. I smile at her childish wonder. The furrowing of her dark, softly shaped eyebrows as she experiences this wholly new wonder, gives a slight lift to my own grin. How can we, as grown children, grow bored of something that this child finds so mesmerising? She is lost within this world of discovery, feeling the gentle tickle of a raindrop as it falls through her fingers, smelling the sickly sweet air as it rains.

She pauses for a few minutes, simply observing the light drizzle and the way it blurs the surroundings. I think to myself, "ahh, she is finally bored". But no.  Unlike us, she does not wait for something to happen. She makes it happen.

She jumps. She jumps from the top step of our porch into the puddle below, squealing with extraordinary delight as the water sprays in every direction. Startled, I catch myself trying to run after my sister so that I could bring her back under the shelter of our porch roof. But I don't. And I'm glad I didn't. Instead I watch her from a distance. Though I am shivering in my pj's, feeling tired and muggy, dying to get back to my homework, I am still mesmerised by the childish joy that was taking place before  me.

Now why didn't I go out into the rain and bring my sister back? Why didn't I take her in and dry her off so that she wouldn't get sick? Why did resist the primal urge to bring her back?

Because the play, the exploration, the joy,  are all part of a child's curious nature. Young children are at the very early stages of their life and there is just so much for them to learn. They feel things so they can lean. They smell things so that they can learn. They see colours and taste flavours that will in turn, allow them to gain more of an understand about the world around us. To learn. And where best to lean? Nature. 

In such a technologically advanced society, we often forget the benefits that a connection with nature has with children. While many children are plomped in front of a television, or made to play on the Ipad, or with store bought toys, there are other children who are placed in a far more stimulating environment. The natural environment increases physical activity, cognition, engagement and creative play. Experiences such as these; the rain, the soil, the snow, the sun, the exploration of the world around us, moulds a child's brain. It creates links and bridges, and patterns within their minds and in turn, motor skills, social skills, emotional awareness and so many other skills that are vital to a child's development. 

So there. My sister was wearing a raincoat and warm clothes. She was safe within the walls of our fence and so I had no worry. Her childish enjoyment was so amusing, I just couldn't stop her.  My mum, as a social worker, had always enforced these concepts to me. Even now, it stills pains me to see a kid being yelled at for rolling in the dirt, or for having messy hair, or for staying out in the rain. It's all part of their daily experiences that help them learn more and more about the world around them. And most importantly, they are learning for themselves rather than having information shoved down their tiny throats. So please, next time your kid, your sister your brother, ends up coming back into the house with dirt on their shirts and hands covered in grass stains, just say "Well done! That's the muddiest I've ever seen you!" before you tell them not to get the tiles dirty.  

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