By our Smarty friends at the Charlotte Nature Museum
Brrr! The air is brisk, days are short and the leaves are almost completely shaken from the trees. Guess that means it’s time to retire to the living room, crank up the heat and click on the PlayStation, right? Wrong! Let’s bundle up and get outside. The winter season offers ample opportunity to wander through woods, splash in streams, and build everything from magnificent mud pies to fantastic forts.
Charlotte Nature Museum believes it is critically important for children to connect with the natural world while learning to love, explore and bond with nature through outdoor play. An interesting aspect of nature is it constantly changes, providing no limit to daily adventure. Don’t let a wintry mix (or a potential one) keep your tikes from exploring their world.
Are your scarf and mittens on yet? Here’s a handy list of five great reasons to encourage your little one (parent’s: join them as well!) to take it outside, even when there is a chill in the air:
1) Playing outdoors creates healthy and fit kids. Freedom to move and make noise provides abundant opportunity to explore new worlds, create imaginary ones and encourage whole body movement. Studies show these types of activities are critical for the developing child to help with motor skills, balance, spatial awareness and coordination.
Smarty Tip: Next time you venture outside with your little explorer, sing a song (one you are familiar with or make one up!) about the changing season or challenge her to mimic a favorite animal.
2) A child playing in nature encourages healthy brain development. Research indicates outdoor recreation significantly helps children with concentration and their attention spans.
Smarty Tip: Schedule a family nature walk and suggest a game of I Spy, but focus on just one color.
3) When groups of children play together, magic happens. There are countless benefits from building self-confidence and fostering leadership skills to supporting open communication, teamwork and most importantly, creating potential lifelong friendships.
Smarty Tip: During an upcoming play date, encourage collaborative fun by suggesting a game of hide and seek or building an animal den together.
4) Nature’s loose parts (including rocks, seeds and leaves) make wonderful building blocks and creative tools for imagination. When children are allowed to run, jump and explore they have the freedom to be curious and create; essential for growth and development.
Smarty Tip: Children love to build things big and small. Why not construct a teepee out of branches? Or start a fairy village and share the story of magical creatures that dwell there?
5) Playing outdoors infuses a sense of curiosity and love of the natural world. Studies show that childhood nature experiences are important pathways to adult attitudes and behaviors about the natural environment.
Smarty Tip: Don’t forget your own backyard is chock full of natural treasure; go on a leaf or rock collecting expedition and encourage your youngster to seek his own wild prize that could potentially fit snug on a bookshelf.
Help Charlotte Nature Museum nurture the next generation of natural stewards. Trek a 100-year-old forest on the Paw Paw Nature Trail, explore the recently unveiled Fort Wild, a natural habitat focused on child-centered play or enjoy monthly Creature Features. Close to home, a world of nature-based fun and interactive experiences awaits. Let’s go outside and play!
To find out about upcoming events, current exhibitions and the benefits of Membership visit us online at charlottenaturemuseum.org or call 704-372-6261.