Outdoor play allows children to activate their senses - the smells, the sounds, the feeling of the earth or the air on their skin.
Outdoor play allows children to activate their senses - the smells, the sounds, the feeling of the earth or the air on their skin. Morsa Images

Kids need some time out to connect with curiosity

I RAN a workshop recently at Mt Cootha Botanical Gardens. We were thinking and talking about environmental education. The adults reflected on childhood memories.

We each shared a memory of the play and time we had spent in the natural world as children, and as we did so we recognised how "time” featured.

We each had experienced the value of time, uninterrupted time to play and be, uninterrupted opportunities with natural environments and materials that expanded our curiosity, imagination and inventiveness.

Many of us shared experiences of being left to our own devices, without close adult supervision, and how we relished the experience of timelessness, risk and adventure.

We also recognised that our play in natural environments had supported our experiences of belonging and wellbeing and influenced our curiosities and interests into our adulthood.

Some of what we remembered was the quality of the experience - freedom, adventure, serenity, joy, wonder and the activation of senses - the smells, the sounds, the feeling of the earth or the air on our skin.

Our remembering caused us to ponder: How much time do children have today to connect with their curiosity, and to play and learn in their own unique, creative and original ways in long stretches of time?

How many children are growing up with limited time outdoors, with restrictive daily schedules, too many extra-curricular activities or too much time in front of screens?

It also caused us to reflect on the busyness of our own lives. And the need to find spaciousness and timelessness for ourselves. As we talked about the time we had spent outdoors we recognised how our childhood places and play still influenced our values now.

Remembering our own childhood experiences and play helped us identify what mattered to us as children, and what we want to cultivate for children today.

What kind of outdoor play did you engage in as a child? What feelings surface as you remember? Can you remember the magic and discovery, wonder and delight?

It is vital we continue to recognise the profound importance of connecting with the natural world. Nature and the outdoors offer us all a refuge from the fast-paced world we live in.

As Richard Louv says: "It can support better health, enhanced creativity, new careers, and act as a bonding agent for families and communities.”