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Home » Notes to Parents »

Outdoors: Nature and Exercise

Nature has always inspired human imaginations. Almost every culture has developed stories about how the earth came to be and why we are here; we also wonder whether or not we are alone. Voices are heard in the wind and rain. Novels and legends detail the imaginary social lives of animals or of fantasy creatures underground. Mermaids and sea monsters used to be "sighted" in unfamiliar waters. Odes have been written to the moon. Characters have been imagined in the constellations of the stars, from ancient times and beyond to the many books and epic films set in outer space.

Many adults report that a favorite childhood experience was building imaginary worlds outdoors with rocks, sticks and leaves, often as they played alone. Planting seeds or caring for plants, we partner with the creative power of nature. Digging in the ground, lifting logs and stones, staring up at clouds, watching fireflies, we connect with something larger than ourselves and enter into our imaginations.

Outdoor activities are often called "recreation." They allow our bodies and minds cycles of exercise and relaxation, which we need in order to process information and generate ideas. Researchers have found that people have more creative ideas after exercise. Try to find ways to have your children play actively outdoors and doubly benefit their creative development.

More recommendations for connecting with nature can be found in the Expand sections of Window Boxes, Designer Butterflies, and Stars.

Sources and Further Reading:

Campbell, J. & Moyers, B. (1991) The Power of Myth. New York: Anchor.

Chalufour, I. & Worth, K. (2003) Discovering Nature with Young Children (The Young Scientist Series) St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press.

Louv, R. (2005) Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder. New York: Algonquin Books.

Steinberg, H., Sykes, E.A., Moss, T et al (1997, September) Exercise enhances creativity independently of mood. British Journal of Sports Medicine 31(3) 240-245.

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