I love this story! There are so many reasons why it’s a good idea for children to spend time in nature, and now here comes another one: the development of social skills.
Experts recently have been pointing out that time in nature reduces stress, soothes the psyche, and eases tensions, paving the way for improved communication and closer bonding with others.
So here’s a study that demonstrates exactly this point.
Children In Wales Solve Problems With No Help From Grown-Ups
In Brigend, a town in south Wales, about 22 miles west of the capital, Cardiff, a group of nursery school children took part in a trial of outdoor learning in the woods designed to promote independent play.
The result? Through the experiment, they learned to solve disputes without any help from adults.
In the trial, led by the Forestry Commission of Wales, the Pontycymer Nursery children were taught how to carry out a simple risk assessment of the woodland and given basic resources such as buckets, ropes, trowels, mud and water to encourage them to start playing.
The resources were reduced each week until the children just used what they could find in the woods to interact with and use in their games. The adults with them observed the children discreetly and recorded how involved the children were in their play.
From the BBC:
WfL (Woodlands for Life) education manager Karen Clarke said each child was assessed three times during the session for two minutes each time to analyse how they were interacting with their environment.
She said of the mediation skills the children started showing: “The conflict resolution came along during the project. Withdrawing adult-led interaction, it was a byproduct of the process.
“It was a very positive side of it.”
She added four children in particular who appeared not to be interested in their surroundings at the start became much more engaged as the project went on.
The children learned “how to negotiate with each other to get an agreed outcome” and were “finding out about becoming more resilient when things don’t go their way.
Wild Zones Growing In Popularity
Ms. Clarke reported on how the youngsters grew in confidence and were able to implement conflict resolution with no outside help.
The idea of giving children resources and encouraging them to work together in unstructured free play has been taking off around the world. In the US, as well as the UK and other parts of Europe, the notion of “Wild Zones” has been gaining popularity: places that allow for all types of play, outdoor laboratories on creativity with open-ended possibilities for self-designed play and socializing.
In outdoor settings, children are provided with resources like sticks, flowers, mud, branches, and they work together to create whatever they want. It’s exciting and fun to watch!
So it’s great to read of this study in Wales that has documented some wonderful benefits from this approach to learning.
Photo Credit: istock