A few days back Neelum and I were having a conversation about how our children and children of this generation have very little contact with nature. They don't touch natural materials and don't do any messy play. Neither do they play outdoors for long periods of time.
Their playgrounds are on a level surface and made up of artificial material. This prevents serious injuries when they fall but it also,Neelum very rightly pointed out, prevents them from experiencing the slopes of natural landforms and the joy of walking on grass barefoot. Neelum recommended a book called "Toxic Childhood" which describes the nature deprived childhoods of our children. I also read a similar book called "Last Child in the Woods" by Richard Louv and I am really glad that I read it. The author here gives a very appropriate name for this phenomenon and he calls it the "nature deficit disorder". He says that children learn many things from nature and outdoor play. They learn about seasons,day and night,pond life,plants etc. and they also refine their gross motor skills by running and hopping and fine motor skills through activities such as picking up stones.
Indoor entertainment cannot match or substitute for outdoor fun for children!I discovered it yesterday when I made a totally unplanned visit to the East Coast beach with the kids.I went even though my daughter came back from school at four in the afternoon and even though I had a lot of housework to do. After going there,Ibnat started playing immediately while Nayaz took a while to warm up to the sand and the sun. What happened next ....well,you all can guess....was sheer fun. The kids had a rollicking good time!
I can't help compare this to their indoor playground experience last Saturday.The playground was beautiful with ball pools and everything but the fun they had there was nothing compared to what they were experiencing in the beach. For Nayaz,the sand play molds became cars which were travelling in a hot desert.Ibnat drew a mermaid on the sand and collected shells and stones.Outdoor play stimulates the senses and encourages imaginative play.
Even though the afternoon was hot & sunny,I am glad that I took them outdoors.Usually it is just the condo playground that they experience. While it is better than staying indoors and watching TV, I think once in a while the kids need to be in big open spaces under the sky.