“The country is the world of the soul, the city is the world of bodies.”‘Abdu’l-Bahá, quoted in J. E. Esslemont, Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era, Chapter. 3, p. 35
by Christine Muller
The value of children spending time in nature cannot be overestimated. At first, we may just think about the benefits of physical exercise and fresh air for children’s health, but there is so much more to it! It is essential for children’s overall healthy development–physical, cognitive, social, and spiritual. It allows them to experience oneness with creation, with all living things including other humans. Connection to nature is also associated with feelings of happiness.
The consciousness of being part of nature is a strong motivating force to protect it. People growing up with love for a certain place–be it a riverside, a meadow, or a forest–will want to protect it from development or restore it if damaged by economic activities or natural disaster. People with a strong sense of interconnectedness with plants and animals will also more likely lead environmentally responsible lives and support environmental actions by the community and the government.
Some practical ideas:
· Regular visits to a precious natural place facilitate the development of a “sense of place,” and of connecting with the plants and animals living there.
· Meaningful activities in nature can actively promote nature connectedness, for example observing a specific animal for longer periods of time, sitting quietly and listening to nature sounds, or walking in a pond.
· A playground provides many benefits such as joy, physical exercise, and social interaction, but often contributes little to nature connection. However it can be beneficial if children spot a beautiful insect or bird–especially if they have already developed an interest in observing wildlife.
· An interconnectedness with nature can be nurtured at all ages, but its development is much more likely in children up to about 11 years of age.
· Free play in nature develops not only love for nature, but also creativity and confidence in children. Walks and hikes with family and friends also strengthen social ties.
· Planting a garden and attending to it is another tool that fosters love for nature.
· A city park or a balcony with potted plants can be alternatives if there is no close access to nature.
It is the responsibility of society and the government to create access to nature for all children and it is the responsibility of parents to help their children take a break from screens and to play outdoors. Children deserve to experience nature every day!