Monthly Archives: March 2009

Parenting Tip: A Daily Dose of Nature

Guest blogger Vanessa Brown

Guest blogger Vanessa Brown

TGSG Note: I am tickled to have Vanessa Brown guest blog for us today at TGSG. This busy mom recognizes and values the role of nature in raising healthy, happy kids. Enjoy. See ya outside! – The Grass Stain Guru

We have a rule in my home that every single day we have to spend time in nature. In the Spring we tend to spend most of our day outside but sometimes in the Winter all we can do it run outside really fast to catch a snowflake. When we have crazy days and break our rule I notice a HUGE difference in my children’s behavior. Everything from their stress level, sleeping habits and their ability to listen to Mom and Dad! :)

In my home we are big on living a healthy lifestyle, we put a lot of thought into what foods we eat, what cleaning supplies we use, etc. However, just as important is our daily goal to make the time to spend time in nature. With how fast paced and high stress children’s lives are getting at younger and younger ages, they thrive off time to just “be” out in nature. Having your children spend a good amount of time in nature will help them to be physically healthy also.

Recent studies show that children are smarter, more cooperative, happier and healthier when they have frequent opportunities for free and unstructured play in nature. It gives them the chance to explore, dream, pretend, experiment and come to their own conclusions all at their own pace. One of the most magical things about being a parent is to see their creativity grow and I really believe that spending time in nature helps to develop their creativity. Having “unstructured play-time” in nature has helped my babies develop their motor skills, my lovable but a little high strung daughter relieve stress, and has helped all of my children’s sleep habits.

When I need to calm down, take a breath or need to get out of a “funk” I find myself thinking of times spent in nature as a child. These events included exploring the woods behind our home in Maryland, walking along the Chesapeake Bay, exploring the tide pools in Maine, hiking the mountains in Utah and impromptu excursions on the side of the road to play in fields of wildflowers. I hope I can teach my children the strength they can take from nature. To allow them to be able to have their own memories involving the outdoors and learn how beautiful everything around them really is.

Guest Blogger Bio: Vanessa Brown is a busy and enthusiastic mom of two. She is owner of I Never Grew Up, a website for parents, and Co-editor of Blissful Kids. She lives in Utah with her family, including two dogs, and can be found daily playing outdoors.

Growing Young Minds in School Gardens

Photo by hoyasmeg via flickr

Photo by hoyasmeg via flickr

Today’s Washington Post features a great article on school gardens and the No Child Left Inside Act, a piece of legislation we discussed last week here at TGSG. The Post article talks about several DC area schools using school gardens as outdoor classrooms, and how children and educators alike are benefiting from the experience.

I have been involved with the school gardening movement for 10 years, and even had the pleasure of working with some of the schools mentioned in the article, including adding on to the Peace Garden with teachers and students at Carodozo High School. I have seen first-hand students flourish by planning, planting, and learning in a garden — elbow-deep in soil, sun on small backs — minds, imaginations and bodies fully engaged.

School gardens have been shown to help improve test scores, as well reduce behavior issues in the classroom. The hands-on, real-world learning these spaces provide help students grasp concepts in a meaningful way, while the physical act of being outdoors and working and exploring in a garden offers an outlet for excess energy. I have seen students that struggle in traditional classrooms really make great learning strides in a school garden. They truly are living classrooms.

While it’s simple to see uses for a school garden in teaching science and and environmental studies, they are also great places to teach literacy, math, art, and social studies. The integration of a variety of subjects makes a garden an amazing, cost effective way to teach many lessons and engage students with different learning styles. With funds increasingly limited for field trips, gardens offer a much needed break from the classroom walls, without ever having to board a school bus. No permission slips necessary!

School gardens are also a great place to teach character development skills, like teamwork, communication skills, responsibility, and more. They are also a way to help children learn about nutrition and a tie to other health education issues. For older students, gardens offer a place to explore potential careers, such as landscape architecture, soil science, botany, and more. One enterprising high school class I worked with set up a stand at a local farmers’ market and sold part of their harvest. They learned a lot about financial management, business development, and marketing in the process.

Now, it must be said that school gardens are also a lot of work. I have seen just as many go back to seed or get mowed over as I have seen flourish. It takes more than the commitment of an excited and dedicated teacher — much more. Gardens need support of the administration, the grounds keepers, and the parents to truly work — and this commitment has to be renewed each year. Just like the seasons, school communities change, and a garden’s maintenance and support plan needs to change along with it.

From preschool to high school, school gardens provide a place to learn, explore, and have fun right on the school grounds. With the proper support, they offer a school community a way to engage in exciting hands-on learning while adding a level of beauty to the landscape that can be enjoyed by everyone, including neighbors and the community at large.

For more information on school gardens, including lesson plans, grant information, and a Parents’ Primer on gardening, visit the great folks at The American Gardening Associaiton. The Junior Master Gardener’s Program also has a lot of useful information, including the Growing Good Kids – Excellence in Children’s Literature Book Awards Program.

See ya outside! – The Grass Stain Guru

The Sound of Silence?

In the stillness of a gray and damp Sunday morning, I am contemplating quiet. Silence. Stillness. We’ve talked about silence briefly here before, and it has come up in some great comments from readers. I think it’s a topic really worth exploring.

Are kids today able to learn to appreciate silence, or to feel comfortable with it? Do they get ample chance to experience silence in a world filled with video games, computers, iPods, and ever-increasing television viewing?  As more and more children have cell phones and text or instant message, do they get enough time to NOT react to things, but simply reflect? And what are the true long-range implications of all of this? In this brave new world of ours, is silence at the top of the endangered species list?


Skyline Drive - Shenandoah National Park

I would love to know what you think, and I’m sure many could benefit from suggestions. How do you make room for silence and stillness in the lives of the children in your world? Do they have access to stimulation-free time? Do you see a value in this?

I know adults who are aggressively uncomfortable with silence. You can see their discomfort—it’s almost palpable. I wonder what it looks like when they are alone? What it feels like? I can’t imagine it feels good.

I also can’t imagine not being able to welcome silence — to not relish it and benefit from the peace it gives me. The time to recharge my batteries and simply be. I would be lost without it.

I look forward to your input. Now, speaking of silence, it is time for me to go seek some. I always find the outdoors to be a perfect place to be still. Silent. How about you?

See ya outside! – The Grass Stain Guru

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