Rewild the child: children & nature play
We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this earth, and to tell our stories.
–Richard Louv, Author of Last Child in the Woods–
It seems we are only just beginning to grasp the idea of connection to country. Our First Nations people have been talking about this for centuries now. Yet we shrugged off tens of thousands of years of intuitive knowledge and instead looked to our western technology to find a better way foreward, at the expense of Yingarna (Creation Mother) herself.
It seems people are starting to listen. Many research backed books and academic journals are explaining nature therapy and the importance of nature and trees on our lives in sustaining us - not only our living breath in the form of oxygen, but in overall physical and mental wellbeing. The science is catching up to the what we once thought of as mumbo jumbo.
Richard Louv started an international movement with his 2008 book The Last Child in the Woods. He coined the term nature-deficit disorder and outlined the benefits of a strong nature connection - from boosting mental sharpness and creativity to reducing obesity and depression, from promoting health and wellness to simply having fun.
When I take a walk around the plant nurseries near me, I see children helping parents decide on plants for their room or for their teacher's Christmas gift. Not only has the gardening demographic shifted but we've seen the changes in children's organised play with local councils' funding of outdoor playgrounds designed to encourage more free play, more risk-taking and to develop stronger children and offset an osteoporosis epidemic in years to come. Compared to the mind-numbingly loud but safe indoor play centres of the 90s and noughties it's an encouraging sign.
Schools are chasing grants to keep students outside for longer, sourcing protective sun shades to deal with a hotter climate, using more natural materials in playground equipment or just going back to good old nature focused incursions and excursions. Jamie Simpson from Ranger Jamie Tours started his business four years ago and has seen and increase in the demand for nature experiences from primary school principals and teachers who've realised that classroom learning is not the only way to go. Jamie provides incursions and excursions promoting and educating kids on the environment, science, Australian flora & fauna, Australian history, ecosystems and sustainability. Ranger Jamie's Tours also partners with Gumara Cultural Tours so that kids develop first-hand authentic and immersive Indigenous experiences and knowledge. In fact, so recognised is Jamie's contribution that in 2018 and 2019 he won NSW Business Award for Outstanding Young Entrepeneur of the Year.
Adults too can benefit from time in nature. In their recent book, The Secret Therapy of Trees , authors Marco Mencagli and Marco Nieri describe how just one visit to a forest can bring positive effects. Monoterpenes, let's just call them natural essential oils in plants, have numerous positive effects on health. This is even influencing marketing companies who understand that people no longer want to be around artificial aromas and chemicals either in the their home, work or garden.
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