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Natural Connections: Children, Nature, and Social-Emotional Development

by Janet E. Thompson and Ross A. Thompson
November/December 2007
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Article Link: http://www.childcareexchange.com/article/natural-connections-children-nature-and-social-emotional-development/5017846/

Most people know intuitively that there is something magical about the experiences offered to children by the outdoors. We grew up hearing our parents and grandparents tell us stories about their childhood summers spent playing outside, interrupted only by a parent’s call to come inside for dinner. It may have been a grandmother’s accounts of life as a young child on an Iowa farm, exploring the fields, streams, and woods with her brothers and sisters. Or a father’s nostalgic memories of summers spent tagging along with the neighborhood’s “big kids” and being allowed to enter into their suburban “kid culture” of alleys and yards " building secret hideouts, collecting treasures, and making up their own games.

But we who advocate for children’s greater access to rich outdoor experiences can no longer rely only on nostalgic anecdotes. Even our first-hand observations of the children in our care are not enough. Our 21st century society demands research to give credibility to our practices. We must be able to show a link between young children’s connections with nature and their healthy development. The good news is that we, as child developmentalists, can meet that challenge. We present here some of the links we can find ...

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