If there was a tool you could use for your child to improve cognitive development, deepen sleep, balance moods and boost creativity, you would surely buy it. Well, sometimes the best things in life are free, just like nature. This is why we’ve incorporated an abundance of nature throughout our Early Education centres. Everywhere children look, they can spot nature in many forms, even in the middle of the city at our QV Centre! 

It only takes a quick look at the similarities between our fingerprints and tree stumps, our veins and meandering rivers, and our eyes and carrot intersections to remember that we are nature. Our outside world and internal world are all connected as Indigenous Culture teaches us. Because of this, we at Aurora Early Education believe that a deep connection to nature is vital in early childhood development.

Studies prove that adults who have been immersed in nature from a young age show decreased levels of anxiety, depression and other diseases. These same adults are more likely to protect and care for nature as they have a deeper understanding and love for our environment.

A greater understanding of the complex interconnectedness of our ecosystems is also developed through a long-lasting relationship with nature. Whilst we can connect to nature at any age, the relationship is best moulded when young. Think of it like meeting a family member later in life, it will take longer to bond and connect with this person as opposed to meeting them from childhood. Elements in nature are our family members too, just as Indigenous Culture teaches us. Children will tell us this, remarking that particular trees are their friends. Too often we shrug this off as “childish imagination” but there is a real truth to developing a relationship with nature, one that lasts a lifetime.

Often children don’t need much encouragement to explore nature, they are naturally drawn to it when it’s in abundance for instance, in a forest or by a pond. However, like many of us in suburban homes, it can be difficult to create nature-based experiences in a limited backyard. Here are some tips that may help: 

  • Sandpits are a simple way to promote sensory play
  • Water features are calming and soothing (to all ages) 
  • bonus if you can include water-loving plants like lilies or certain ferns. 
  • Practising “foraged art” by collecting gum nuts, leaves or flowers upon a walk in a park (please observe local flora laws and only collect what you need). You can use these items to create mandalas or other beautiful patterns in your backyard. 
  • Planting edible herbs in pots or giving your child a section of soil to plant anything they wish helps them to understand how to care for nature on a small scale. 
  • Worm farms or composts help children to learn about ecosystems and the cycles of life in nature (it’s circular, endless and forever gifting us with nutrients and beauty). 

But to really get the best experience of nature-based immersion is to practice “Shinrin Yoku” which is the Japanese art of Forest Bathing. Shinrin means forest and Yoku means bath.

Here are some tips for maximizing your Shinrin Yoku experience: 

  • Ask your child to focus on their senses and explain what they feel, smell, touch and hear. (Best to avoid taste unless you’re a bush food expert, keep those curious taste buds busy with a snack instead of a potentially unconsumable leaf). 
  • Eliminate all distractions of phones and devices. 
  • Research the history of the forest and any Indigenous stories to better enhance the understanding of your chosen special place. 
  • Remember to look beyond eye height! Get down on the ground and inspect the forest floor, try to spot mushrooms or other magical things. 
  • Take only photographs, leave only footprints. Human impact can harm our sensitive forests so talk to your child about the importance of protecting our ecosystems. 

We hope you enjoyed this blog and feel inspired to explore some nature this week with your little ones. Feel free to tag us in your adventures using @auroraearlyeducation. 

With Kindness,
Aurora Early Education 

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