This is a picture of a small Dread Pirate Grasshopper in the woods, swinging sticks.
This is a picture of the Dread Pirate Grasshopper at the lake.
And this is a picture of a little Ladybug at what she considered to be the World’s Largest Sandbox, An Amusement Park Meant Just For Her.
Winston Churchhill once said that “The outside of a horse is good for the inside of the man.” The Equuschick of course favors equestrian types of outdoor exercise especially, but she also believes that the same can be said for a great deal of the outdoor world. The world outside is good for the inside of a man. Especially the inside of a Busybrain.
Richard Louv, author of the fabulous book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder wrote of his growing up years, “The woods were my ritalin.”
The Equuschick has noticed herself this awesome effect on all of her children, but especially the Dread Pirate Grasshopper. When he got out of that lake, three hours later, he was a different child. It was a fleeting vision of what can be achieved by the union of an active, intelligent, mind and an active, disciplined body.
What wrought this (all too brief) but wonderful change? Countless, countless blessings that await us in the world outside. Vitamin D has been shown again and again to improve both mood and brain function. The adrenaline of what is famously known as “Runner’s High,” that oh-so-lovely burst of focused energy that follows an intense period of physical exercise. (On the days when The Equuschick is able work in an exercise routine, she can pretty much live without coffee all day long. ‘Tis true, shockingly enough.)
But there is so much more. With all of the focus on ADD these days, not so much its given to its medically recognized counterpart (or perhaps its medically recognized cause?), Attention Fatiuge. Richard Louv discusses this phenomenon as well in,
Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, but here is another excellent article.
What happens when your muscles are over-worked for an extended period of time? They get weaker, not stronger. They rip. They tear. What happens when your brain is forced to the stance of Attention for an over-extended period of time? It gets tired. It gets weaker, not stronger. This is true for adults, would we not expect it be even more obvious in a child?
Nature can help. As Jenny Roe said in the article, “Natural environments still engage the brain… but the attention demanded is effortless. It’s called involuntary attention in psychology. It holds our attention while at the same time allowing scope for reflection.”
Another word for that kind of attention, that kind of reflection, might be the Awe Factor. When you stand before a waterfall, you don’t stare at it in awe and try to memorize its contours and its colours because you have to write a report on it. You do it because you can’t help it, and because it is rewarding in and of itself.
The Awe Factor is just another one of the many brain-boosting, yet brain-soothing, blessings of the outdoor world.
But, for a change of pace, and for the politically incorrect, another factor that often invigorates the male Busybrain and can often be found in the outdoor world is Pain.
Yes, pain. Neither girls ‘nor boys like it, we know, but what The Equuschick didn’t always know was that while pain numbs the female brain, it is actually scientifically proven to wake up and alert the male brain.
(She learned this from Teaching Boys & Other Children Who Would Rather Make Forts All Day DVD, which is an absolutely mandatory resource for moms of male busybrains, by the way.)
All those hours on the hot, sharp, sand at the lake? All those hours hitting himself with sticks, and stabbing himself in the leg with a fork…(Yeah, the DPG does that. Not outdoors, but he does it.) Skinned knees. Shredded palms.
Yes, for a boy, probably all brain-boosting. This explains a great deal about the world, doesn’t it?
But are we done yet? Have we exhausted the benefits of nature to children yet? Indeed not.
When children run and play on trees, on hills, on rocky ridges, in uneven grass, their bodies are learning how to handle themselves in ways that can’t be found on asphalt or indoors. Adults may often prefer children to play in the safe, flat, and tidy surfaces for safety purposes, but small people just learning how to walk and how to run and how to use their bodies in a variety of coordinated ways need that kind of exercise and therapy very badly. (This can be especially valuable for a Busybrain who is advanced academically, but delayed with mind/body coordination.)
Truly, we could go on forever. But we shan’t. Just keep all this in mind, as you’re raising your Busybrain. And if you don’t live out somewhere in the middle of Untouched Nature, don’t worry. Nature has never been pristine since the Garden of Eden, and it doesn’t have to be elaborate or pristine to boost the brain.
A friend who raised a plethora of boys had a rule that before their math lesson every day, her boys got a half hour of exercise on the rebounder or trampoline, preferably outside. When The Equuschick feels like playing at numbers or letters with her small tots, her preferred plan is to do it outdoors with sidewalk chalk, gravel from the driveway, and some dandilions. You can teach shapes by drawing large circles, rectangles, triangles, etc. and having them jump in and out. Get cheap binoculars and watch the birds, get cheap magnifying glasses and find the bugs.
Go camping. No, really. Very brain boosting activity, is camping!
For a mind to be at its best, it needs the body. And for the body to be at its best, it needs to be outside.