The forest has a special effect on the development and richness of experience of children. But we adults also benefit from the soothing atmosphere of nature. Today, we’ll tell you why it’s worth visiting a forest every now and then – regardless of whether it’s in the countryside or in a park in the middle of the city.
Do you know the? You’ve had a stressful day, the kids are whining, running wild and your home is more like an adventure playground than a cozy family nest. Your head says, "clean up," your tummy replies, "I’m tired," and your kids just want to have fun. What helps everyone now is a walk in the woods, get away from the hustle and bustle, just let go, let the kids run and relax yourself in the process.
An oasis for all
In the forest everything happens at its own pace. Here there are no appointments, no telephone, no cleaning up, no obligations. It’s the ideal place to switch off, slow down and recharge your batteries. Nature is an oasis in the middle of everyday life that regenerates us parents so that we are more balanced for the challenges of everyday life with our children. It allows us to take a breath and recharge our batteries without having to arrange for a babysitter or some form of childcare for this short-term respite. Because in the forest, even the little ones blossom: It offers them plenty of space to discover and explore, to run and romp, to play and build. The forest is an oasis for the whole family.
The stimulation of the senses
When we enter a forest, we are immersed in a world that appeals to and stimulates all our senses. Imagine a forest for a moment:
Do you hear it? The chirping of birds; the wind moving the leaves of the trees; the babbling of a brook – here is a world filled with countless sounds that together make a beautiful symphony.
Smell it? The smell of damp earth; the scents of the various flowers, shrubs, grasses and conifers – this world is a unique, dreamlike scent experience.
Feel it? The soft forest floor that gives slightly under your steps; bark that feels rough but not cold under your hands; mosses that feel fluffy and soft; tender leaves and gnarled roots, soft feathers and solid stones. Everything here has its own texture, its own nature.
See it? The sun’s rays of light falling through the leaves, patterning both the path and the trees with thousands of shades; the myriad hues of leaves, barks, ferns, mosses, flowers, berries and mushrooms; the surprises that await the eyes, like the squirrel scurrying across the path or the shiny blue beetle: welcome to a world richly covered, where the eyes can’t get enough of it.
The forest is a sea of senses. The big difference with sensory stimulation in other places is: In the forest, despite the many sensory impressions, there is no sensory overload. This is especially important for children, as they perceive their environment much more intensively than adults. Too many sensory stimuli at once leads to discomfort and stress in children. Not so in the forest: Here all sensory perceptions combine to such a harmony that the forest experience is calming, relaxing and de-stressing at the same time.
By the way, the relaxing atmosphere of the forest has been confirmed by various scientists: Researchers from the University of Michigan even speak of a "natural pill" due to the positive, relaxing effect of the forest: just 20 minutes in the forest is enough to reduce stress and has been shown to lower cortisol levels. In a forest our breathing deepens and we come to rest. In Japan there is therefore the trend of "forest bathing" as a means of targeted recreation – Shinrin-Yoku.
Unleashing the imagination
Imagination is such a valuable quality that Albert Einstein said: "Imagination is more important than knowledge, because knowledge is limited. Imagination, however, encompasses the whole world." What can we deduce for ourselves when even such an eminent physicist places a higher value on imagination than on knowledge?
Small children carry an almost infinite imagination within them. We can make sure that they can both discover and develop this precious treasure, their imagination. The forest is a perfect place for this: it invites children to play in a thousand ways. Playing in the forest is only possible for those who use their imagination: In order for your child to recognize a crocodile in a tree trunk or to build a teepee out of sticks, he or she must draw on his or her own creativity and imagination. So while your child is building a dinosaur trap out of a hole in the ground or balancing on a stick lying on the ground over an imaginary sea full of sharks, they are developing and unfolding their imagination.
motor skills, balance and coordination
The forest offers something unique, which can only be found in very few places: Its ground is rarely flat. In addition, the nature of the ground is usually not stable. Soft and hard alternate: earth, plants, stones. Here and there it is also necessary to climb over a root or a stick. Sometimes it’s slightly uphill, sometimes slightly downhill. On such a floor children learn and experience body control, safety and stability. Their motor skills, sense of balance and coordination are enhanced in a forest to a very special degree.
In addition, children can balance or climb over tree trunks. They can run – and even if they stumble, they usually fall softly. A paradise for children who love to romp outdoors.
The positive effect on health
Did you know that the atmosphere of the forest is not only relaxing, but also good for health?? There is more to it than the generally positive effect of fresh air or the production of important vitamin D through sunlight. The special thing about forest air: it contains more than 90 percent less dust particles than the air in the city. In addition, the forest air contains valuable, health-promoting essential substances that are produced by the trees and that give the forest its typical scent.
Clemens Arvay, biologist and blogger, summarizes the health benefits of the forest in the following words: "The forest helps us against depression, against psychological stress and burnout. But it also strengthens our immune system, can protect us from serious chronic diseases
Japanese and Korean studies have found that spending time in the forest lowers blood pressure and stabilizes the cardiovascular system. Bronchial tubes and lungs are strengthened, and the number of lymphocytes in the blood also increases.
In addition, a study by scientists in Tokyo found that walks in the forest activate so-called cancer killer cells. In one sentence: The forest air is not only good for the soul – but also for the body.
Tips and ideas for discovering the forest with children
The forest offers children an enormous variety of sensory impressions, movement and play opportunities. Therefore, you do not need to plan a children’s entertainment program for a forest trip. You can relax and be surprised by how many play opportunities the children discover on their own in the forest! Whether they play knights with sticks, creep along a trail as jungle explorers, or gallop across the forest floor like ponies – children can experience true adventures here with the help of their imagination.
Other children immerse themselves in this "sea of the senses" and experience the forest in a more tranquil way. They enjoy it when they can walk – or pause – at their own speed without hurrying, and they let the forest with its many sensory impressions take effect on them.
The forest is full of possibilities. You could z.B. together:
- Collect treasures: pine cones and acorns, especially beautiful stones or small sticks. With this you can later create pretty Crafts make, z.B. a mobile made of natural materials.
- Especially popular with children: search games: "Find something soft / hard / thin / long / short / small / big / yellow, etc."
- Or have a little competition with Fir cone tossing games.
- Or maybe your kid loves it behind trees Hide and seek to play?
- You can make out of sticks Hopscotch put them on the ground and jump into them: with both legs, one-legged, forward, backward.
- Or you can make with your child a small "Insect hotel" build from natural materials by stacking sticks, cones, stones and more.
- You can take your child by the hand and lead them over a log lying on the ground balance
- Or you can Stick-Mikado play: a few sticks are put on a pile. Now you try to lift a stick so that the pile does not wobble. If this succeeds, you may move on to the next stick. If the pile wobbles or. another stick on the pile, it’s the next player’s turn.
Play ideas for mindfulness
During forest excursions, children learn about nature: they marvel at a beetle, delight in the songs of birds, and discover the smell of different plants. They develop an awareness of nature and can learn mindful interaction with plants and animals here.
- A game that can be used to train awareness of the environment is: "Tell me what you see". You stand at any place in the forest and ask the child to name all the things he can see here. It is surprising how many small and big things the eyes see here!
- Another game is: "Tell me what you hear". The child closes their eyes, listens, and says a sound they hear. Now, together with the child, try to find what he/she has heard with his/her eyes. It’s surprising how much of what you hear in a forest is completely hidden from your eyes!
- A third game suggestion is: "Find the partner". This game can be played in a place in the forest where there are several different types of trees. Stand in front of a tree with the child and let the child explore the tree: How does the bark feel, what do the leaves look like, what color is the tree trunk? Then let the child find the tree partner in the forest: Which tree is the same species as the tree he or she has just explored??
When children learn to be mindful of nature, they learn considerate behavior – not only toward plants, but also toward animals and their fellow human beings! How valuable an awareness of nature is for the development of one’s own personality was already recognized by the Lakota Indians:
"The ancient Lakota were wise, they knew that the heart of man who becomes alienated from nature becomes hard. This is why the influence of nature, which made young people sensitive, was an important part of their upbringing."
Sioux Chief Luther Standing Bear
Well, maybe now you feel like a walk in the forest? Then quickly get out there! Dive into this sea of the senses where your children can unleash their imagination and where they will become steadfast and confident. Enjoy together the beneficial and health-giving effects of the forest and its relaxing atmosphere. Play and have fun. And if you like, check out what we at sigikid have to offer on the topic of the forest. We are convinced that forest is important – not only for children, but for everyone.
Parenthood is an adventure. It’s not only more exhausting and challenging than you could have ever imagined before as a childless couple – but also more fulfilling, happier and laugh-in-your-heart magical. With our blogs, we want to meet parents where they are – in the middle of the hustle and bustle of family life – and remind them of the wonderful things they encounter there every day.
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