Schools have been restructured, offering and demanding more of our little ones. This is a general impression of many families and often a complaint from parents. Both schools and parents, remember little to invest in regular rest moments to obtain better cognitive and academic functioning of our children. But even when you remember these little details, one should think about what is the best environment to rest and restore batteries?
Historically, our grandparents grew up loose in the fields, with their parents not knowing where they were or what they were doing. They discovered their limits dealing with extreme conditions, it was natural and possible to enter an animal, like a horse, into the classroom. The limits were tested, but the relationships were very affective and promoted immediate correction and consequences in different scenarios. Everyone in town knew or would know. Today all of this is unthinkable!
Over time, children ceased to be raised in rural environments and to interact with nature and societies in villages and small towns. We migrated to increasingly larger cities, first we live in houses that are even large and spacious and full of gardens.
Next generations experienced the increase in urban violence and migrated to apartments. These apartments, in urban areas, have reduced in size and are getting minimal. Even in green cities, the wave of violence has made central parks mere landscapes of childhood photos of those who are now at least adults.
With the changes in spaces and environments, the boys of yore rode horses and lived full of animals, the ones today confuse cows with hippos (believe me, my own son did it!) And the productive and populated farm only even in Minecraft. Children, adolescents and adults are increasingly sedentary, more dedicated to leisure activities at home and which require less energy.
However, many studies are emerging and showing how interaction with nature helps to learn to recognize and regulate emotions. Interacting with nature and still exercising seems perfect! After all, according to the World Health Organization, it is recommended that children between 5 and 17 years spend at least 60 minutes a day doing physical exercises, including aerobic and anaerobic training in the most diverse environments. Physical exercise also has its beneficial effects already proven: it improves from our executive functions to the quality of our bones and muscles, allows the creation of good habits and predicts the realization of physical exercise in adulthood (see on the website of the Sociedade Brasileira de Pediatrics – SBP).
Today we live with broken boys, with little ability to control their wills and their tantruns, irritated and even aggressive in the face of seemingly simple situations or simply said, they seem to respond at all times with the good old prank. There are no economic or racial limits to our lack of emotional regulation.
Emotional regulation talks about our ability to learn to control ourselves, even in the face of challenging and unusual situations. In isolation, this regulatory capacity seems to predict our economic and employment future. Those who lose control more, apparently will have worse conditions of employability.
As adults and parents we have little time, and the time we have should generate good results in interacting with children, educating them and promoting rest for them and for ourselves. Some studies have shown that interacting with nature can and should be one of the ways to achieve all of this.
Does any activity immersed in nature help? Yes, from small parks and squares to large nature reserves and ecological tourism, which make us disconnect from our small, stressed urban world. However, some of these studies have pointed out that large green spaces, such as large reserves and parks, are even more efficient in allowing us to relax.
Thus, in times of burning and destruction of natural reserves it is important to report that even the educational function nature can have. The moment nature reserves work for wild animals, dangerous or not, nature provides a variety of stimuli, enchantment with beauty, learning from smells and noise, training of our warning systems.
Nature does not contain itself and has its own rules. You need to get to know them and get used to them. There is no way to ignore these rules and the experience and learning of this complexity and of actions in the face of variety is transferred to other scenarios. Nature proves to be a good tutor who monitors and allows to experience learning through experience.
There are already scenarios made of video projections in four dimensions that bring in the projections, movements and even smells, wonderful sensory experiences that mimic tropical forests, flowering fields and even savannas where wild animals stroll peacefully beside us. For the time being, this experience is expensive and requires a lot of travel, being available in cities like Paris, Tokyo and Shanghai. However, for now it is a non-generalizable scenario, very unreal and artificial.
It costs much less to take the children for a good ride, cross a waterfall, fish or even go fishing and pay. For us who have plateaus, Pantanal, Amazonia and thousands of kilometers of beautiful beaches, being in frequent contact with nature should be the rule.
These tours generate a wealth of pleasant experiences, teach respect, demand autonomy and responsibility. The stories of the jaguars that were not seen, associated with the snakes that passed by and how untamed the horse that conquered him on the last ride will yield experiences and limits. In nature, of course, you can’t move on to the next stage if there is no respect. It is not so safe, but living requires respect for the new phases to come. And all of this can be experienced and amplified with relatively simple and inexpensive actions.
Wallner P. et al., Reloading Pupils’Batteries: impact of Green Spaces on Cognition and Wellbeing. International Journal of Environment Research and Public Health. 2018; 15 (6):1205.
http://www.sbp.com.br. (Atividade física na Infância e na Adolescência: Guia prático para o pediatra)