As early childhood educators, one of our most important roles is to guide young children as they learn to express and respond to emotions. Whether they’re feeling frustration, anger, anticipation or joy, we are at the ready to help them through powerful emotional experiences.
Mindfulness—the practice of paying attention to your feelings and how your mind and body experience them in the present moment—can be a valuable tool to help children (and adults!) process feelings. Being in nature offers many opportunities to practice mindful approaches.
Nature-based programs are keenly attuned to the positive effects of outdoor learning such as improved physical strength, rich language development, direct experiences with science content, and opportunities for constructing and problem-solving with natural materials. But just as profound is children’s emotional development. Children develop self-awareness and a sense of belonging by playing and learning outdoors.
As children explore and observe nature, they become more aware of, and empathetic to, the plants and animals who share the natural world. This larger awareness shifts focus from an “I” mentality to a broader understanding of “we”as it relates to sharing the land and resources found there. By becoming more aware of our relationship with other living things as part of a community, children are more likely to reign in their impulses.