‘Down to Earth’ toddlers group: on nature and connectedness

  

Last month we went to the Brigit’s Garden in Pollagh in Galway for the open day of a Toddler group. It was a bright spring day that brought the forest to life. The sun was peeking through the trees and was catching the children’s faces. It is at moments like this that I understand why it is so important to bring children to nature.
I was brought straight back to my childhood. My happiest memories are from being outdoors and around nature. The Swiss knife as treasure tool, old clothes to get dirty, the endless space in my aunt’s cottage yard, granddad’s mountain enclave and the surrounding forest. Today I saw a pencil made from wood and my heart felt warm remembering that I once owned one too. I shared baked potatoes with my children and I was taken back to sitting with my cousins by the bonfire, cutting through a hot spud and crushing salt onto the melted butter.
My children had a lovely time, playing with all the precious things that were made by the leaders of the group. Beautiful, natural, handmade objects. Swings made of knotted ropes, wooden jewellery and instruments. The children used leaves, mud and water to cook in their imaginary kitchen.

Nature exposes us to the concepts of continuity and connectedness. In today’s fast changing and fragmented world, it is difficult to feel it on day to day basis. It’s difficult to capture our experience and keep it safe – photos in the cloud, letters lost in the mailbox, luggage with childhood memories left behind after moving house again. We are just going with the flow, the years passing by. We wear new clothes, because the old ones remind us that we too are getting old.

We live half of our lives online. We travel, change places, learn languages and fly far away from our childhood homes to build a new ones and sometimes never return. The world is transforming and with that comes great developments and fantastic new inventions, but we as humans inherently desire those feelings of connectedness and continuity. We still need to understand our roots, to know where we came from and what needs to be respected.
Experiencing nature can help us with remembering what’s important and who we are. It helps us to get in touch with ourselves and appreciate all the gifts of the earth. Encouraging our children to interact with nature is an important part of their long term development and helps to teach them to nurture what’s already theirs.