A large mass of literature shows that children require contact with nature to secure their well-being. The young people are slowly becoming detached from the environment since their outdoor access has greatly diminished. The essence of prior school and school setting is to ensure that children are connected to their surroundings. The studies utilized in this essay evaluate how the opportunities to engage in nature affect kid’s social and play behaviors. The journals adopt various childhood centers with different outdoor components for the review. Participants are observed over a particular period. Other articles used in this study explore parent and child relationships to determine why the kids are restricted from accessing the natural environment. The analysis indicates that surroundings are essential in developing the imaginative play of children. They provide learning opportunities and enable them to create positive relationships. The writers advocate that the learning institutions should provide youngsters with the appropriate learning environment. At home, the parents need to erase their pre-judgmental fears and allow their children to have independent mobility so that they can learn from nature.
Nature and children should go together. Recent reviews document the essence of introducing kids to the natural world from their early years. Their physical, social, and emotional health relies on the exposure to develop. People are hardwired to require the environment since they are part of it. In some societies, youngsters lack access to their surroundings and the freedom to explore flora and fauna. How are the children expected to care about the environment, if they cannot get a firsthand experience of its benefits? Parents should ensure that their young ones have such opportunities. The biggest concern in today’s world is the limited access that individuals have to connect with their ecological systems. There appears to be a disorder of nature deficit amongst families (Pretty et.al., 2009, 3).
The modern household has changed over the last two decades. Kids spend the most time playing video games or watching TV instead of being physically active. Families consume processed foods with high calories because they do not have the time to cook proper meals due to the busy schedules. The drastic changes have led an epidemic of obesity amongst the children including threats of diabetes, psychological and social problems, heart diseases, sleep apnea, etc. The articles under evaluation in this essay address the factors that have led to the kids’ inaccessibility to their natural environments. They look at the relationships between the children and their parents and the limited access to the outdoors either at school and home. The aim is to formulate a solution to the rising epidemic before it gets out of reach (Gil, 2007, 13).
Today’s youngsters are called the bubble wrap generation due to their protective guardians. According to Karen Malone, parents always create justifications to regulate their children’s exposure to the natural surroundings. They do so to safeguard the innocence of their kids and shield them from potential evils. Her study is particularly focused on the children of the middle-class households in Australia and the Western countries. She uses the metaphor of a walled garden that restricts the kids from the seduction of external risks. Unfortunately, the generation was born in an era of the internet, mobile phones, and terrorism. Demographics show that more than 90 percent of the children in the above regions live in urban centers. They live in structured estates with small land portions, tall fences, little or no front yards (Malone, 2007, 514).
Kathryn Milburn and Jeni Harden’s article also add information concerning the implications of the pressures of parents on their children that limit their exposure to the surroundings. The writers provide a qualitative research to explore their research question. They utilize case studies to describe the households, the shared biographies, and interwoven fragments amongst the individuals. The respondents in their study draw legitimate practices and risk-related activities that justify why they do not allow their kids outside the compound. The journal also outlines and discusses the contingent, fluid, and dynamic structure of risk construction in the families’ everyday lifestyles (Backett-Milburn and Harden, 2004, 431). Three prominent themes are addressed by the two articles above. They include the assumptions, contradictions, and collusions of the risk factors that prevent guardians from giving children adequate exposure to the natural environment.
The other aspect under study is the benefits that exude from the interactions of children and nature. Kellie Dowdell, Karen Marone, and Tonia Gray evaluate the impacts of nature on the behaviors of kids. They utilize a research setup that compares the outcomes between different outdoor environments in two learning institutions. The two centers are selected based on their extreme contrasting features. Data collection takes place from April to July 2010 completing a 12 week period. The first school is located in an urban region. It has an unusual environment since it is a warehouse with internal and artificial outdoor structures. The play area is confined by the four walls of the warehouse. The ground is filled with soft fall to enable the variations of floor designs weekly keeping the children engaged (Dowdell, Gray, and Malone, 2011, 25).
The second outdoor environment is a garden grove that lays emphasis on sustainable and natural education. The surrounding is four times the size of the first play area providing the kids with ample space to play. The equipment area was left blank, and the children were encouraged to give ideas concerning how to use the idle space. The volunteers for the research were youngsters between two and six years from both genders. The areas were visited six times during the twelve weeks to observe the activities of the children. The kids’ behaviors were recorded and examined through a behavioral mapping sheet adapted by Tranter and Malone. Their actions were classified into four groups: motor skills, cognitive, social, and other activities related to the type of play. Once the observation was made and information collected, the results were tallied up (Dowdell, Gray, and Malone, 2011, 27).
The most common behaviors extracted from Dodwell’s research include verbal interactions and imaginative play. In the Garden Grove, the creative activities were highly prevalent followed closely by strong interactions between the children and the environment and verbal communications. In the warehouse, verbal interactions were prominent with imaginative behaviors trailing behind. Observations also indicate that associative play was witnessed in the warehouse at a higher rate than the Garden Grove. Both centers provided equipment and space for plays such as active, over-enthusiastic, social, quiet, and imaginative activities. The warehouse had a quiet play area with cushions and cots where the children could read or lie down. The Garden Grove had a fairy garden with wooden benches and pillows for the children to read to one another or sometimes with the teacher (Dowdell, Gray, and Malone, 2011, 28).
The two outdoor environments had opportunities for active play. The imaginative behaviors were challenged in the two centers through dramatic play in the warehouse and the use of natural materials to adopt characters in the garden. Social activities involved interactions amongst the kids. The tutors created forums where the young ones could engage in play in small teams. Play involving the natural environment was limited in the warehouse. They only had a sandpit where they could build castles. However, on many occasions, it was hard to construct the castles since the sand was dry. The garden, on the other hand, had many opportunities for the children to interact with their surroundings. The environment had animals and plants enabling the kids to make new discoveries every day. The over-enthusiastic play was highly prevalent in the warehouse because the youngsters would engage in risky activities, rough play, and arguments over the toys (Dowdell, Gray, and Malone, 2011, 31).
The play in the warehouse required behavioral management from their instructors to control the over-enthusiastic activities. The children in the Garden Grove did not exhibit any signs of rough play. The findings are an indication that various factors should be evaluated when establishing the appropriate outdoor environment for kids. The features determine the quantity and quality of play that the children experience in the environments. Unquestionably, the surrounding in the garden provided a stimulating place for the youngsters to foster their curiosity, learning, and play (Dowdell, Gray, and Malone, 2011, 32). The results provide two major factors that are essential in influencing the behaviors of kids: the presence of a supportive adults and accessibility to the environment. The first aspect draws us back to the first article written by Malone that parents affect the interactions between their children and nature.
Malone gathers evidence for her study from reports produced over the years regarding how the maternal age has risen from the 20s to the 30s. Many women today give birth in their 30s in Australia and the Western nations. Most parents also prefer to have one or two children in today’s generation. The massive age gap prevents the guardians from relating with their kids in the appropriate manner. They often find it challenging to manage or discipline their young ones. The problem has resulted in most parents opting to track the activities of their children to protect them instead of giving them opportunities to make mistakes. A large percentage of American parents have installed GPS trackers on their kids to monitor their whereabouts in the outdoor arena. They have fears generated from news reports that their young ones might be abducted or forced to indulge in substance abuse. Some of the stories are not even recent. They have been recycled for close to three decades. The issues nowadays are not the under parenting skills amongst the guardians rather it is the over parenting techniques. The parents act as barriers that limit children from mingling with nature freely (Malone, 2007, 523).
The two articles under evaluation complement each other. They show that the inaccessibility of the children to nature emanates from poor outdoor environments in schools and the overprotective nature of their guardians. People need to comprehend that the surroundings are important learning resources for the development of their kids. Without them, the children might experience an inadequacy in social, physical, and cognitive skills. Hence, it is the mandate of the tutors and the parents to provide suitable natural environments for the youngsters. Sure there are dangers out there, but individuals should learn to leave the problems in the hands of the legal system. Outdoors are opportunities for children to use their hands-on skills to understand what they acquired during lessons. In Dowdell’s article, the warehouse was used as a break from learning; hence, it failed to capitalize on the factors of an articulate outdoor environment unlike the Garden Grove (Dowdell, Gray, and Malone, 2011, 34).
Nature has a significant way of motivating the student’s engagement in education. However, the supportive systems of the kids, the teachers and parents, have limited their perceptions of the potential of an indigenous surrounding. Their opinions stem from the childhood theories that perceive kids as innocent, incompetent, and unruly (Malone, 2012, 6). They should provide room for the youngster to make rational decisions concerning risk factors so that they are not impaired in their adulthood to make logical interpretations of situations. The children also have failed by allowing themselves to be captured by digital age instead of investing in their physical and mental health. The approaches of place emphasize on affordances and engagement to develop the independent mobility of kids. Resilience stems from the capability of a person to adapt and adjust to critical situations building his or her confidence and knowledge. The society should work together to establish healthy environments that can support children’s safety and provide more chances for play experiences and independent learning.
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Malone K., (2007). The bubble-wrap generation: children growing up in walled gardens. Environmental Education Research, 13:4, 513 – 527. To link to this article: DOI: 10.1080/13504620701581612. URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13504620701581612.
Malone K., (2012). Children, Freedoms and Risk – 3. Centre for Educational Research. University of Western Sydney, Bankstown, NSW.
Pretty J. et.al., (2009). Nature, Childhood, Health and Life Pathways. Nature, Childhood, Health and Life Pathways. Interdisciplinary Centre for Environment and Society Occasional Paper 2009-02.University of Essex, UK.