Why this is a nature-based home & why it matters

"I can't step on the ice", he says "what if it cracks...what if I fall in...what if I hurt myself?" I knew he'd say that. He's a cautious guy - always has been. His fear of trying, and failing, or falling and hurting is the common denominator of most of our days.

In the back of my mind I have a different picture - I wonder what did I do to make him so cautious? I can't help but think about my childhood when all I wanted to do was or dangerous I wanted to try it. When I say dangerous, I don't mean bungee jump or sky-dive from the nearest building; I mean I was curious about exploring the
 natural world.

"...go for it...", I say. I always say that! I know that he might fall down, he might get a scratch here or there. He might even end up more scared than before. On the other end, all of the above scenarios could simply blow away with the wind, as he might discover that he liked the experience. I don't push, I gently nudge...I wait and see.

And so he walks closer to the ice and he steps on; and guess what he takes a few steps - he's feeling pretty good, then he falls on his knees...tears - oh oh game over! I give him a minute, trying not to crowd, or hover. He finds his balance and gets up. "Another day...", I say, and we move on.
A while ago, lead author Professor Evert Verhagen, adjunct professor at the Australian Centre for Research into Injury in Sport and its Prevention, noted (following a marked increase in arm and wrist fractures among primary school-aged children), that “The rise in injuries appears to correlate to a decrease in physical activity and motor skills,” he said. “In simple terms, many children no longer know how to play. It was interesting to read something which was to me quite need to know/learn how to take risk. 

Limits & Boundaries I believe that in  taking risks children learn what works and what doesn't work. They learn boundaries, and limits. More importantly, they set limits for themselves. Take for instance my toddler, she has been walking steadily for months. She is definitely one of the risk-takers in the family. However, she (even at a young age) is learning her limits and boundaries when it comes to climbing, sitting (too close to the edge of something), or even how fast she can run in a closed space. She learnt all of these things by doing, by sometimes getting hurt. It's inevitable I think!
There's so much talk for and against kids taking risks that it has become quite overwhelming. People in my position (as care-giver) are also divided. Some people say it's fine to take chances with your own kids, but NEVER  with other peoples...I feel that too sometimes. I've been known to let my littlest roam the stairs, climb on chairs and even tables (if I am close by), but I just couldn't let someone else's child do that.

Let it go - let it flow
Looking back at my childhood, the days weren't always sunny and bright, but we enjoyed them to the fullest. Most of the skills I acquired in my childhood, I learned from playing outside; from  riding a bicycle...skinned knees and all, to skipping rocks in a nearby pond. Having a nature-based program is one thing, but how can I really give parents a sense of what it really means for me, them and their child?

Just talking to parents, I can often get a sense of which ones think like me. I also look at other factors, like, how many children they have, where they grew up (country or city). Most importantly, I always want to know what kind of parenting style they embrace, because these days it seems there are so many? The question in the back of my mind is often, how can I truly show them what nature means to me- and what it will do for the child that they are entrusting me with.
I believe it is so important to teach every single child to embrace challenges & take risks. If I had to spell it out, I would say, supervision and adult presence is key. I would push for natural age-appropriate toys and outlets for creative play. 
While outside, I would do the same. In nature, I would ensure that basic safety precautions are met, and of course, never putting them in harm's way. But I would caution every parent about the realities and the volatile nature of (well) nature. I would ask them to understand that their child will get dirty- real dirty at times. That there will be minor bumps and scratches, and most importantly that this in no way equals neglect on my part.

As a child I certainly was not programmed to fear everything. There was unstructured play, and the ability to learn resilience and appreciation for everything around us. More than learning not to touch a hot stove burner, we were taught about fire safety. We learned by and in large bodies of water, and steep hills. We discovered with our hands, and feet - we used our 5 senses, as we should have - with reverence for all the beauty that surrounded us.
One of my children (I won't say which one), spent the first year of daycare in a high chair. As you can imagine, there was little stimulation and learning - very little risk-taking. 

Running a nature-based dayhome is tricky. When I initially tell parents about my program, about the no-TV home, about the need to get kids out of the house, they are super-excited, but I don't think they know what they're getting themselves into. I wonder if they would prefer their child sit in a chair- out of harms way.

So what's the point? Why go out of my way to promote nature and highlight the pros of risk-taking? Because I think that this is just the beginning. Because nature is as much a part of us as we are a part of it.  

Motivational speaker and writer, Denis Waitley once said, 
"The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence."
I agree!
If I can get the children to do one thing while in my care, I hope to have them so immersed in nature that they will never feel as if they are going out, or coming in. I want each child to learn a valuable lesson in getting wet, dirty, or falling down. I want him to simply feel at home wherever he may be.
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“A hundred years from now, it will not matter what kind of car I drove, what kind of house I lived in, how much money I had in the bank…but the world may be a better place because I made a difference in the life of a child.”
~ Forest Witcraft

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