Children need the Outdoors!

by Ishita Bose Sarkar

Children need the Outdoors!

‘Don’t go out, there are creepy crawlies and snakes, they’ll bite you’,

‘Don’t sit down in the mud, your dress will get dirty’,

‘Don’t go into the bushes, you’ll scratch yourself.’

Frequently heard statement made by adults who are either not used to being outdoors or are fearful/ afraid. Very easily we adults can transfer these fears and anxieties to our children. The children who live in urban spaces and high rise buildings, where lawns and green spaces are sparse and scarce or manicured.  Also our adult notions of sanitization or cleanliness comes in the way of the child’s need to explore and experiment with mud, dirt and things that we consider unclean.

What happened to the free, open, green spaces where children would spend hours together by themselves or with friends (without supervision) and had so much fun and in the process learnt a lot about nature, themselves, picked up life skills and made connections.

‘Moder jemon khela temni je kaaj jaanis ne ki bhaai.

Taai kaajke kobhu aamra na darai.’

As Tagore puts it aptly, for the child, work (kaaj) and play (khela) are akin to each other and not separate as we are made to believe as we grow up.

Last Child in the Woods is the first book to bring together a new and growing body of research   indicating that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of children and adults. In this book, child advocacy expert, Richard Louv talks about the staggering divide between children and the outdoors. He directly   links the lack of nature in the lives of today’s wired generation — he calls it nature-deficit disorder - to some of the most disturbing childhood trends, such as the rise in obesity, attention disorders, and depression.

Different statements, different setting…

Often, I have observed children during a nature walk, suddenly stop mid-way and trail away from the group to intently watch a creature/ bug moving in the soil, quietly doing its work.

‘Touch the soil, take in the aroma of jeevamrita’

Walk gently on the mud, walk barefoot and feel the mud/ earth.’

‘Look at that tiny butterfly… do you hear those birds?’

Fascinated!! The concentration is immense… which at times the facilitators have to repeatedly entreat the children about, in a classroom setting. So, what happens in the outdoors and what happens in the class? this ought to give us a clue to the questions we ask ourselves… why does a child loose interest in an activity or reading or writing in a few minutes, when s/he can observe the creatures in the outdoors with rapt attention for a much longer period of time?

We, at Bhoomi, provide spaces for children to come and be a part of the green surrounding that most of them miss out on now-a-days. We offer programmes for children to come and spend a day at the campus and touch, feel and experience nature, first hand. Hoping these encounters will leave a lasting impression on their young minds and they will continue to be in touch with nature…