Monday, April 5, 2010

Whole Lotta Hiking

I am reflecting on the past week as my kids are back in school after their spring break. Little Scout just fell asleep so I wanted to write my thoughts. The weather felt like one of many gifts. Springtime in the Midwest is unpredictable and we had warm sunshine for most of the week. The grass got greener by the day and my daughter was thrilled to show me pale Spring Beauties and bright yellow Trumpet Lillies blooming in the woods.

Speaking of woods, we did a lot of hiking this week around the ranch. Near perfect weather and the fact that the kids are getting older are the main reasons. We all would take hikes together and then I was lucky enough to get the kids one on one. My husband took a couple days off so we could help each other give the kids precious individual time.

When I walked and explored with each kid individually, I was amazed by the extraordinary conversations we had. My son "Indy" guided me on an adventure through "shell valley" and up to "piston hill". They all have named the areas and know the land better than I do now. I truly know now what the "wonder years" are starting to mean.

This also makes me think of the book, Last Child in the Wood: Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv. In his book he discusses how nature can be a powerful stimulant and learning tool for children.

He summarizes that Neuroscience teaches us that what's important for a child's mental development is not necessarily the amount of knowledge he memorizes but rather how much of his body and brain he uses, and he writes how Nature stimulates all the senses. Research has shown that the stimulation of all five senses increases a child's intelligence and creativity. Thus, when children watch television or play video games instead of playing outside in the park or walking in the woods they're denied vital mental food for their growth.

Louv also writes that nature offers an experiential learning experience in that children can slowly come to understand nature and themselves by interacting and interfacing with nature. There's a wondrous process of exploration and discovery when a child interacts with nature.

I so agree with many insights in his book. I remember when I was eight years old I loved laying in the grass and looking up at the sky, and just dreaming. Yes, we do have a Wii, DSi, and online Club Penguin membership. Those things can be good in moderation for cold weather days and rewards for good grades. But when the sun is shining you will hear me tell the kids, "Go outside and play!" Just like my mom did.
Shine your light,

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