There is research on the experiences of disaffected adolescents, and on how not being in nature affects our children however, there appears to be none on the experiences of adults.
Many consider nature a facilitator for change; without doubt it’s an integral part of our development in building relationships both as children and adults. In Maslow's hierarchy of needs the first line reads; shelter, fire, water and food, this is about our innate relationship with nature. In relation to our growth play is important because it gives us positive and negative experiences, the latter ultimately being positive if we learn from them.
In play we learn about our boundaries and capabilities, it builds lasting social bonds and attachments. Young animals put in place behaviours needed to survive as adults through play i.e. ‘Predator Avoidance Strategies’. I am wondering we play in nature at an early age, would our strategies be put in place?
In nature nothing moves without affecting everything else, all things are connected just like a spider is with its web; when something gets caught in it, it is not just aware of the vibrations, it can pin point where the disturbance is on its web. These vibrations are sent out like concentric-rings, much like dropping a stone into a still pond; first there is a splash then the waves created spread until they fill the entire pond, and upon reaching the edge, the ripples start back. You only have to look at the concentric-rings to know where the disturbance occurred.
Children are very creative; a work colleague told me he bought his grandson a Tonka truck for Christmas, his grandson played with it for a short while, but for the rest of the holidays he played with the box, it was a racing car, a plane in fact it was anything he wanted it to be but, the Tonka toy will always be a Tonka toy. I expect you remember finding creative ways to play in nature, with your family and friends.
Here’s a game I use in my work. Collect free sample paint cards, with your children cut them out and place them into a container. Now go to your local woods. Ask your children to pick a card. Just like the playful fox cub go hunting for the colours in nature; once you have found them; encourage them to talk about where they found it, how it felt, what happened on the journey to finding their colour. Did they see any animals or birds? And what effect did their concentric-ring have on the web of life? Try it; write in and tell us how you got on.