WILD CHILD: Nature Immersion Experiences

Unless you home school, it can be challenging to get those daily nature hours that experts tell us really boost children's growth and development. For our family, one solution is to plan nature immersion days or experiences. These are days we set aside-maybe a weekend day or PD day- to spend outside. We aim for at least 4 or more hours.

This is not a hike, but a deliberate choice to spend several hours in a specific natural space. On our latest adventure one child searched out clay deposits (real and imagined) while the other explored making muddy clouds in the stream. There was log drumming, coloured rock excavating, and clay-drying initiatives. We did some riverbank scaling and played various imaginary games. After a varied and full nature immersion day we headed home very muddy, a little wet and in a much calmer mental space, ready to head back to school the next week

Want to plan your own nature immersion experience? It's easy and free

What you need:

  • A natural space where you can play for an extended period (check out the London bike walk map for spaces close to home https://maps.london.ca/CityMap/?run=BikeRoutes ). It doesn't need to be big.

  • Rain boots, rain pants, or other weather appropriate clothing. (Very important for the parent who will do a lot of observing).

  • Snack and picnic lunch. Depending on how you time your adventure, this will vary. We like to take a relaxed start and get out mid-morning, enjoy a lazy picnic lunch on location, then play all afternoon until we're too tired or hungry or soaked to continue, then head home.

  • A warm or cold drink depending on the season

  • A towel or change of clothing for the trip home

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What to expect?

If your little people are used to the outdoors, you may have to run to catch them as they rush out the door on the adventure. For less enthusiastic littles, some determination and maybe a special snack once you arrive can work wonders.

Once there we usually sit and enjoy a mid-morning snack and I leave them to choose how they play. They sometimes play independently, sometimes together and the play changes throughout the morning and afternoon. Sometimes they want me to join, often I need to stand back and play the role of nearby observer only called on to see interesting finds and kiss a scrape.

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What ages will this work for?

That depends more on the adult and child. I found we needed shorter periods when naps were still part of our lives. For that reason, full day adventures probably work best for very adventurous preschoolers and school aged children. But anyone at any age can enjoy some free play outside immersion time.

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