Hi,

I am new to this group but have been an enthusiastic ambassador of the great outdoors my entire life and have worked with children under six to playfully engage in all activities inspired by nature. Be it finding music in a breeze or turning over rocks to discover what is there - I generally say "it's not a good day unless someone gets dirty."

 

So while I never have a problem with kids on my tail to join in the fun, my biggest hurdle seems to be parents sometimes. I work with "de-conditioned" minds a lot so the kids may be enthusiastic but many of the parents always say, "I'm so busy."

It's a new year and I've already got a calendar full of storytimes, classes, tours, and more ...but I'm looking for a little creative advice when I get questions or feedback from parents like:

1. "My kids like whatever I do and I really don't have time to go hiking"

2. "Nature isn't accessible to us"

3. "(He's) enthusiastic now but he's prone to temper tantrums when things get rough."

4. "My kids too young still"

5. "I'll let my kid climb the tree if you promise to take him to emergency" (I did promise this person I would by the way)

 

The questions seem silly and there are more but any question is an opportunity to engage a parent as a resource ...and I find myself biting my tongue sometimes not wanting to say something obvious/sarcastic.

 

Thank you so much in advance.

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Replies to This Discussion

Hi Stephanie

 

I was waiting for everyone else to pile in with advice. I get very similar responses from some education staff - as that's who I mainly work with.

 

1) Firstly I advocate "netwalks" and "mobile meetings" to those people who claim they are too busy. That way they can work on the walk so to speak. When I give workshops, I often have no choice but to do this as there isn't enough time so participants are set questions and topics to discuss on the way to a from a site. I often make phone calls and text when out walking and I'm sure parents do the same. OK they aren't spending the time interacting with their children but a balance can be worked out. 

 

2) Nature isn't accessible to many educators I work with. So I suggest that they bring nature into the school grounds via gardening and pots and containers and other greening ground projects. I also have sent home natural party bags containing pairs of sticks, stones, buckeyes, shells, etc with a list of games and activities to play with them at the end of a session outside. 

 

3) Generally outdoors in nature children are calmer. There's evidence that it de-stresses children as well as adults. But thanks for letting me know - what positive behaviour strategies do you use which could be applied outdoors?

 

4) There's neurological research that suggests that the sights, sounds and smells of nature are vital to brain development and growth. There are now projects such as "Nature Nurture" in the UK that address the problems caused by Attachment Disorder through very young children, e.g. 18 month old children spending time outdoors with loving, caring adults.

 

5) So what did you do outside in your childhood? Most children enjoy the opportunity to take measured, responsible risks in line with their abilities. We promote responsible risk taking and not reckless behaviour. Without such opportunities your child won't be able to make important judgement calls when needed to manage risky situations. 

 

I'm sure other folk will have better ideas. 

Thank you so much for responding - I love your outlook and we certainly focus on the 18month year old - it is amazing what a child expresses before they have even said a word.

 

I appreciate any other comments and cheers everyone!

 

 

Juliet Robertson said:

Hi Stephanie

 

I was waiting for everyone else to pile in with advice. I get very similar responses from some education staff - as that's who I mainly work with.

 

1) Firstly I advocate "netwalks" and "mobile meetings" to those people who claim they are too busy. That way they can work on the walk so to speak. When I give workshops, I often have no choice but to do this as there isn't enough time so participants are set questions and topics to discuss on the way to a from a site. I often make phone calls and text when out walking and I'm sure parents do the same. OK they aren't spending the time interacting with their children but a balance can be worked out. 

 

2) Nature isn't accessible to many educators I work with. So I suggest that they bring nature into the school grounds via gardening and pots and containers and other greening ground projects. I also have sent home natural party bags containing pairs of sticks, stones, buckeyes, shells, etc with a list of games and activities to play with them at the end of a session outside. 

 

3) Generally outdoors in nature children are calmer. There's evidence that it de-stresses children as well as adults. But thanks for letting me know - what positive behaviour strategies do you use which could be applied outdoors?

 

4) There's neurological research that suggests that the sights, sounds and smells of nature are vital to brain development and growth. There are now projects such as "Nature Nurture" in the UK that address the problems caused by Attachment Disorder through very young children, e.g. 18 month old children spending time outdoors with loving, caring adults.

 

5) So what did you do outside in your childhood? Most children enjoy the opportunity to take measured, responsible risks in line with their abilities. We promote responsible risk taking and not reckless behaviour. Without such opportunities your child won't be able to make important judgement calls when needed to manage risky situations. 

 

I'm sure other folk will have better ideas. 

Hi Stephanie! I'm really glad you started this discussion. I think so much about the Children and Nature movement hinges on reducing the resistance and re-aligning the attitudes of some parents. A lot of people think of "nature" as somewhere far away that they need a lot of plans and skills to visit. A walk around the neighborhood or a session playing in the park can give anyone a good dose of nature. That needn't take much time at all.

 

I think a lot of times when parents say these things, they're really talking about their own values - they value nature and play less than they value other uses of their time. I guess the best we can do is invite these families and children to come with us outside. Maybe when people start to have fun, their values will shift.

 

 


It's so true ...I actually left work early today and offered to pick up five girls from school because the sun finally popped out. A big pooch and a boost of sunshine and it's amazing how giggly and joyful they are - workig together and having fun. Some parents think I'm crazy for having so many kids on one playdate ...but it is such fun and completely energizes my creative juices!

 I'm currently working on our group activities beginning in February and really working on incorporating elements that will engage the parent more as well. This feedback is great and just reminds me it's part of our journey to connect children and reconnect parents. Thank you and I hope you're sneaking out for a break as well. Cheers!
Suz Lipman said:

Hi Stephanie! I'm really glad you started this discussion. I think so much about the Children and Nature movement hinges on reducing the resistance and re-aligning the attitudes of some parents. A lot of people think of "nature" as somewhere far away that they need a lot of plans and skills to visit. A walk around the neighborhood or a session playing in the park can give anyone a good dose of nature. That needn't take much time at all.

 

I think a lot of times when parents say these things, they're really talking about their own values - they value nature and play less than they value other uses of their time. I guess the best we can do is invite these families and children to come with us outside. Maybe when people start to have fun, their values will shift.

 

 

The key is to start small. Parents sometimes have the expectations that to know nature has to be big and long and intense. Not so:

1. "My kids like whatever I do and I really don't have time to go hiking"

Suggest they take a sit upon and just sit and look for a few moments in a quiet out of the way spot. That in itself gets them to walk a short distance. Once they find both them and the kids enjoy this, they will get out and do it ore (and the kids will ask to do it again which really helps)

2. "Nature isn't accessible to us"

Nature is everywhere, literally! Even in the cracks of the pavement in an inner city. Or the grass and weeds that grow against the building, in the pot of plant on a windowsill. Look for the bugs that live there. Feed the birds. Feel the ind against your face. If you look, it is there. Start small. 

3. "(He's) enthusiastic now but he's prone to temper tantrums when things get rough."

Keep outing short so your child can stay under threshold. Instead of walking 10 blocks, start with one.  Then two and find out how far he CAN go without going over his attention span. Start with simple litre projects like making a super snooper to look through and point out 5 things he can look at. Call it quits while the going is good! You will find that over time, it will increase and you can do more.

4. "My kids too young still"
Babies in arms can observe and enjoy. Feel the sand under their legs as they sit on the beach. Squish dirt in their hands. They learn pretty quickly not to put stuff in their mouth. Watch them laugh as gulls wheel and sway in the wind over their heads. This early introduction lays the foundation for later. Plus it gets you in the habit of being in nature right from the get go. 

5. "I'll let my kid climb the tree if you promise to take him to emergency" (I did promise this person I would by the way)
They don't have to climb trees, but let's find things they can challenge themselves with and be safe.  Later on when they do want to climb trees, they will be more coordinated and strong so they won't fall. Kids need to learn independence. Why not let them learn while having fun?

One more bit of advice is to really highlight the benefits to the parent of having the child get into nature.

1. They will be tired and happy after the experience so you will have some time to yourself.

2. They will learn to love learning so you won't have to goad them into doing homework (and be more independent in their learning) etc.

3. They will get mental and physical exercise and be emotionally healthier. (easier to interact with and have relationships with)

4. They will be more creative and resourceful. e. Better able to function in life.

5. They will less dependent on you in the long run. (Think 30 and living at home. Not!)

Hope that helps.

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