As babies develop into inquisitive and curious children, it is important that as adults we encourage the behaviors that are essential to their growth. Upon reading Why Our Kids Need Forests for True Learning by Linda McGurk, I thought hard about America’s structured educational system. When children are not old enough to go to school, they are taught by the influential adults in their lives. These adults distinctly enunciate the name of the toy or animal they find their children reaching for. As an older sibling with years of babysitting experience, I can confirm that children are more willing to learn when actively engaged in an activity. In fact, McGurk says, “Many early childhood experts consider physical activity and unstructured play the two main pillars for learning and a healthy development for preschoolers.”
So why is it that when we send our children off to school they are told to sit quietly at a desk and stare at a board for 8 hours a day?
After spending the month of August committing to the hashtag #healthytreeshealthylives, I was astounded at all mental and physical benefits of forests. Children are the most vulnerable to these positive influence due to the perennial development of motor and personal skills. Parents across the world have begun enrolling their students in classes taught by the most knowledgeable teacher, Mother Earth. These classrooms without walls are known as ‘forest kindergartens’ and are revolutionizing the way we think about early education. The intellectual benefits students receive are remarkable. Through outdoor exploration and physical activity children can strengthen their imaginative capabilities, risk judgment, sense of community involvement and much more.
Running Free in Germany’s Outdoor Preschools by Alice Gregory is another important resource that highlights the benefits of forest kindergartens. The implementation of more outside- oriented lessons is something I hope to see more of.