Learning through play in contact with nature
“There is always an open book for all eyes: Nature.”
Early childhood is especially sensitive to nature, as children identify with it in a holistic, integrated way; they feel a part of it. Nothing gives them as much pleasure as being outdoors and immersing themselves with all their senses in what nature offers them. Nature provides quality spaces for movement and sensory perception that are difficult to replicate in other settings. Although it is not necessary to seek grandiose settings, as children at this age are interested in the micro-scale, in what is within reach of their hands, it is important to provide them with a natural space that is as unaltered as possible. Frequent or nearly constant contact with nature, as is the case here by being in the woods every day, generates a sense of identity and belonging to it that is hard to achieve with sporadic visits. This translates almost immediately into attitudes and behaviors of respect for the environment, almost without the need for explanation or mediation by adults.
Furthermore, this prolonged and regular contact with nature provides children with intense, deep, and gratifying sensory experiences in the long run. The information that reaches them through all their senses is coherent, consistent, and full of nuances and subtleties, which is essential for integrating information in the brain. All of this allows for a greater self-awareness of their bodies and what they can do. The infinite nuances of shapes, colors, sizes, and materials make children more sensitive to beauty and make them feel in harmony with the environment and with themselves. The wide and open space allows them to expand physically and mentally, to feel free; they can develop their play without interfering with each other and in a setting with multiple environments, structures, materials, and challenges of different levels and characteristics. Being outdoors, in an environment that is inherently changing, makes them more alert, enhances their observation and concentration skills, and makes them more flexible with themselves and others than when they are in the classroom. For this same reason, they improve in recognizing their own and others' needs. The rhythms of the natural world, generally slower than those imposed by our society, allow for the development of patience, provide serenity, and contribute to the encounter with their spirituality.
On the other hand, play in nature, with its uneven terrain, and the use of materials found there stimulate their curiosity, imagination, creativity, language, and, above all, their motor skills, both gross and fine. Having to make, shape, or define their own toys creates the need to use language for it, greatly enriching their descriptive capacity and fantasy. The physical and sensory challenges they encounter in that environment foster their autonomy, independence, and ability to cooperate, negotiate, reason, and make decisions, as it is the children themselves who assess their own ability to face them and evaluate the results of their attempts. The natural environment also presents situations of variable risk, which caregivers try to control but not eliminate. The risk they face there contributes to learning to evaluate them more realistically, to self-awareness of their abilities, to a better ability to cope with adversity, to greater tolerance for frustration, and to respect for limits and rules. Thus, the set of sensory and motor experiences that nature offers in early childhood contributes to a more harmonious and integrated physical, emotional, and spiritual development.
Contact with nature at an early age also has multiple health benefits: It is not just the obviously more intense physical exercise they engage in outdoors. It also has beneficial effects for children with autism spectrum disorders, attention deficit disorders, physical, mental, or sensory disabilities, and chronic illnesses; it contributes to reducing tension and spasticity; it promotes concentration and attention capacity and mitigates antisocial behaviors such as violence, bullying, vandalism, and absenteeism.
For more information, see Hueso, K. (2017) Somos naturaleza. Plataforma editorial, Barcelona. (Spanish)
We are located in the Valdearas area, 1 kilometer from Viana and 9 km from Logroño.
Forest School Schedule:
Monday to Friday from 9:00 AM to 14:00 PM and working to extend it to 17:00 (with meal).
Rates for the 2024/2025 School Year:
Winter, Spring, or Summer Toy Library Schedule:
From 9:00 AM 14:00 and working to extend it to 17:00 PM (with meal).