We Indians, who did not seem to have ‘outdoors-y’ genes, have recently taken to trekking, camping, climbing and cycling with a vengeance. An increased awareness of the importance of physical fitness, a yearning to bring the magic of being one with nature to our children, the chance for the family to do something together (whether it is tots or teens), whatever the reasons are, the Outdoors beckon…….and we follow!
Impact on the child
In very young children, contact with nature can help build strength and endurance. Research has shown that children who spend uality time outdoors have improved fitness and immunity levels, better motor coordination skills and reduced stress levels.
“We have found that the outdoors bring out the ‘unexpected’ in the child – a ‘quiet’ child may take charge of a sticky situation, for example. Being out in nature, out of hiscomfort zone, makes the child look inwards for strength; outdoor activities can be a great way for children to gauge their own thoughts and reactions,” shares Saurabh Saklani, Director of Inme, a New-Delhi based company that offers adventure and outbound programmes for children and adults. Outdoor activities can give children a huge sense of achievement, adding to their confidence and instilling a can-do attitude in the process.
Connecting with nature makes children more sensitive and eco-conscious, developing a respect for all living and nonliving things. Children pick up a wealth of knowledge about creatures like birds and reptiles, geography, the changing weather conditions etc.
“Children who are exposed to the outdoors are a lot more ready to take on challenges. Since they have experienced the different plays in nature – gusty winds, rains – they are deeply aware of how variables in a situation are difficult to control. They are able to handle themselves very well and figure out solutions in difficult circumstances,” states Suma Rao, an outdoors enthusiast who has facilitated programmes for children for a decade and half. Activities such as camping and trekking introduce a child to teamwork, organising, planning and leading. How many rations to carry, where to camp, when to set out, when to stop, what route to take, how many breaks to take – when adults involve children in making these decisions, outdoor programmes can offer valuable lessons.
Seshadri Venkatesan, Director – Operations, NALS Outdoors has another interesting take, “We need to trigger children’s primary emotions to evoke their leadership and survival skills; without triggering fear one cannot build courage and without triggering insecurity one cannot build team spirit.” The outdoors, with all the risk and unpredictability, offers ample scope for this.