Too often nowadays, we tell our children “Be careful” or “Don’t do that” “Watch out”. Children are not allowed to do anything because there are too many risks, but said who? What do we actually fear? What’s the worst thing that can happen? They will scrape their knees or have a few bruises, it’s quite rare that a serious injury happens from a simple walk on the trails. Most often, kids can assess risks better than we can and, us telling them to be careful all of the time makes them fear nature for no reason. Falling off features out in nature can actually benefit the children development by teaching them to use different techniques next time. Learning from their mistakes is way better than getting told what to do without having to try other options.
Some examples of simple nature skills that improve kids agility are:
1. Climbing Trees
We’ve all done it when we were a child but we never knew how much it actually benefited us. Climbing trees helps children in a lot of ways, it can be challenging to climb trees, you have to think ahead and use some problem-solving skills to be able to make it up and back down without falling. It relaxes children due to having to think ahead before they make a move, using eye, hand and foot coordination all at the same time. Climbing trees also develop body muscles and bosts kids self-confidence.
2. Jumping off things
When kids jump off rocks or stumps often, they develop their gross motor skills while also improving their strength and balance. It requires lots of coordination as it is a full body movement, using legs, arms and core all at the same time. We want to encourage children to land with their knees slightly bent and a good exercise for this is the motorcycle jump. We got this tip from our gymnastic teacher and it’s as simple as reminding our child to always land with bent knees and arms straight out in front of them. You can even make it a game between you and them. They will play the game for a little bit but it will quickly become an instinct skill as their balance gets better.
3. Walk Barefeet
There are so many benefits to walking bare feet and it’s something that we don’t do often enough. We are used to always putting shoes on before we walk out the door but this will actually stop us from developing our feet muscle to their full potential. Children who walk barefoot will increase their balance and develop a good posture, it also enhances their body awareness and develops a better connection with their environment. The feeling of warm sand in between your toes or walking on cool grass, you can only feel these sensations while barefoot. Try putting their shoes aside on your next adventure and see what a difference it makes in their growth and experience.
Let’s explore a little further than just the trails. Don’t get me wrong, trails are great to get us out in nature but sometimes it’s nice to leave the trail a little and explore off the beaten path. Of course, we don’t want to go too far off with young children, but it doesn’t have to be, just a few meters off the trail can be a totally different experience. Children need to be able to navigate in the forest on a trail and off a trail. Crawling under trees, walking through bushes, climbing over rocks are all good skills to have. While out exploring, we still need to respect nature and our parks, if there are signs that say to stay on the trail, we need to follow the rules. Pick somewhere less crowded that isn’t part of a Provincial park or a private property and go explore off trail a little.
It’s now time to get out and let the children play the way they want. Let them climb up rocks and jump off of them, jump bare feet in mud puddles, run wild in the forest. Nature should be fun for them, it’s not somewhere where they need to be told what to do and not do. They are the next generation and we need them to be nature advocate, not scared of nature cause their memories of it was always negative. We want to raise our children to be nature lovers and care about our environment, the more they are connected to it, the more they’ll want to take good care of it.