We dread them, we hate them, we get thrown off our game when they happen.…
I took a much-appreciated vacation this past week, going to the beautiful, some say magical coastal town of Tofino, BC.
The road to Tofino wound dizzyingly through glorious snow covered peaks, sparkling mountain lakes, lush rainforests, and along the mighty Pacific coastline. It was absolutely breathtaking.
Once there, I spent days hiking through massive old growth forests where the towering 800-year-old trees left me in absolute awe over the power and beauty of nature.
I felt like a kid discovering a whole new world of magic and mystery…
What was it like to be an 800-year-old tree? What had it seen during all those years? Did it make friends with the other old trees? Did it get to be a teacher to the new trees that grew up around it?
I wondered fancifully as a child would…
How did it feel for the tree to have all those birds and animals living in its branches over the 800 years? Did it like all the seasons? Did it ever get bored?
And as I entertained myself by thinking of my environment the way a child might, I decided to watch closely the many children I saw, both in the forests and on the sweeping shoreline, to see how they were relating to the many sights, sounds, textures, smells and even tastes that the ocean and forests presented.
I saw children of all ages; babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and school-aged. And whether they were looking up, way up, at an ancient tree or whether they were squishing the muddy wet sand through their fingers, they all exuded the same feeling…
Joy. Pure joy.
As I witnessed these children, I was reminded about the need children have to be in nature and that everything that has been observed and written about that need is true.
Research continues to accumulate confirming the developmental importance of time spent in nature. And here I was witnessing first hand that importance of nature first hand.
Children thrive in nature. They come alive in nature. All their senses, their curiosity, their spirit of inquiry, their imaginations, their desire to move and run and jump, to explore and experiment, to take risks, to wonder, and to simply be in awe of all the life around them, all come together when they are immersed in nature.
There is not a video game or app or TV show or organized sport that can do as much as time spent in nature does for a child. No “manufactured fun” or activity touches children so deeply as time in nature does.
Children need nature. Nature needs children to love it in all its manifestations so they will want to preserve and protect it as they grow older.
Giving our children time in nature should be a priority. It should be a child rearing necessity.
You don’t have to take a week’s vacation to find it. Access to nature is everywhere. Even if you live in the city, there are always parks to play in and explore.
And not only should it be a priority for our children, it should be a priority for us as adults as well.
Adults thrive in nature too.
For me, spending those days immersed in it brought back my childish sense of wonder and appreciation. I had fun. I relaxed, I forgot the many ‘have to’s” that are on my list every day. I truly experienced:
Joy, pure joy.
I wish the same for you.
My time in Tofino reminded me of one of the best articles I’ve ever read on children and nature called Mother Nature vs.Legoland (written by a former Nelson resident, Mitchell Scott and published in the Globe and Mail newspaper). It’s delightful and inspiring to read. Enjoy, and when you’re done reading it, remember to go outside and play.