It may be that when we no longer know which way to go that we have come to our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings. – Wendell Berry
In our last blog post we touched upon the benefits of being outside. In the post we discussed how nature is a tool which builds confidence, increases creativity, implores movement and exercise, and teaches responsibility. These are all valuable implements for positive
child development. But the advantages of the outdoors goes beyond even these sanguine benefits. Brain researches have begun studying more and more the affects of technology on the brain. Outdoor educators have also begun to pay attention to the way different activities offer different perceptions of an environment. As electronic technology becomes ubiquitous even in the outdoors, researches look at its influences when more present and less present.
Investing In Your Child
Researches and child psychotherapists postulate that vacations and time outdoors are actually an investment in your child’s brain activity and therefore ultimately your child as a whole. On a family holiday or at a place like summer camp, children exercise two genetically ingrained systems deep in the brain’s limbic area, which may sometimes be more “unexercised” at home. When children are hugged or are running around, kicking a ball, making a piece of art, taking a hike and exploring somewhere new, the brain is exercising. Exercising this PLAY and SEEKING system leads to growth in the frontal lobe.
This part of the brain deals with:
- cognitive functioning
- emotional expression
The more you use the brain, the stronger it becomes. Just as we want children to get outside and exercise their bodies, we also want them to exercise their minds and strengthen their innate tools.
Quality Time Over Gifts
A 2017 study suggests that time together is what makes people feel most loved. The study was published in The Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. This study showed that most people felt love through interactions with others. Although tangible gifts and toys and objects can be wonderful and create lasting memories associated inside their surroundings, one of the best gifts you can give your child is quality time exploring different places. Summer camp is a great way to give the gift of the outdoors and quality time. Even if a camper returns to camp every summer, they are exploring new activities, meeting new friends, and are having new experiences. As they grow, even a similar environment will become different to them. They will see places in a new light and as they get stronger in things such as problem-solving and expression and judgment, friendships will strengthen and their inner lives will blossom.
It’s All About Balance
As stated above, technology is everywhere. Screens are sending bright, fun, loud stimulations all the time. And technology does come with its advantages. But the more well-rounded and less stressed young people are, the more they are able to create healthy boundaries within their use of this technology. They will be able to not only text their friends or make Instagram or Snapchat videos, but look people in the eye, handle conflict appropriately, understand and utilize constructive criticism, engage in diverse populations, learn how to take safe risks, strengthen their memory, and more fully appreciate nature. These skills will follow them throughout school, in the workplace, and throughout life in general.
A Fox entered the house of an actor and, rummaging through all his properties, came upon a Mask, an admirable imitation of a human head. He placed his paws on it and said, ‘What a beautiful head! Yet it is of no value, as it entirely lacks brains.’ – Aesop (from Aesop’s Fables, The Fox and the Mask)