by Vijayalakshmi Kutty
The most wonderful gift you can give a child is the gift of nature. “Nature walks” or “nature outings” are very much a part of a school curriculum or the lifestyles of families. Some impromptu and some organized, this pleasurable activity helps children connect with the wonder and beauty of the natural world in a way that is innate and long lasting. It is akin to self-salvation from the pressures of growing up in the mechanised, concrete world of urbanity.
The crucial rendering of such a venture lies in its premise. Is it organized, arranged, tutored, shown and guided or is it a spontaneous, adventurous self-guided journey of self-discovery and serendipity? Perhaps we should look to the specialists in the area for the right answers. Maria Montessori, the great educationist of the 20thcentury, says: “A child should develop freely and naturally to acquire spiritual equilibrium. Give them the power and the means of observation to build up their senses.”
The ancient Indian Gurukul system allowed children to observe nature and build up a practical idea of how nature functions.
Rachel Carson, the famous environmentalist, has narrated her enchanting nature walks with her nephew, Roger, in which she made no conscious effort to name plants or animals or give explanations. It was an exciting expedition of self-discovery where Roger observed, remembered and recalled. To parents she says “Gift your child with a sense of wonder that would last throughout life as an antidote against the mechanical life of later years that de-alienate us from the source our strength.” “The years of early childhood are the time to prepare the soil for the seeds that produce knowledge, wisdom, emotions and impressions of the senses.”
Thus, city dwellers should find a place to open up our children’s senses- eyes, nose, ears and fingers- to look at the colour of the water and the sky, the moving clouds, feel the wind, the trees and flowers, hear the birds, ponder the mysteries of the growing seed and the changing seasons, the magic of wet weather and its lushness and greenness. Buy your child a magnifying glass. As Carson says “Nature’s most exquisite handiwork is on a miniature scale”.
Help your child to discover the healing that nature gifts us.