Nature AND Nurture

Hey! I'm still alive! Very busy, having fun/getting stressed out/having my computer dump important hours of work/cooking up a storm with hubby/getting Sam organized (teacher: "Let's try colour-coding everything..." me: "He's colourblind...") (If anything works I'll share our technique!)

We're all happy though, and we had a great bike ride through the New Forest on Saturday. Chas had an amazing moment when he sped down a hill on his bike and then when he was standing quietly listening to the forest, a huge stag stood up in the undergrowth beside him, looked at him for a moment and then bounded off. Chas was shining when we caught up with him.

I've been reading two interesting books:

"Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder" by Richard Louv: We all played in the neighbourhood, built treehouses and forts, and stayed out in the rain. But it is considered unsafe now to play out of  sight of a parent (though statistically it is JUST as safe as back then). It is, in many places, illegal to build treehouses and forts: they break building codes and make an unsightly mess. Building a campfire? Might start a forest fire! Damming a creek? Flood risk! Climbing trees? Unsafe! Just being in the New Forest of Dorset, there were so many signs and rules... we played anyway though, climbed some trees, lay on a blanket, looked at fungi and the colourful leaves.

Read this book. Unplug your kids. Let them have the same natural learning experiences as Benjamin Franklin, Charles Darwin and countless other scientists and visionaries who had their first sparks of inspiration as children in nature.

Sue Gerhardt's "Why Love Matters: How Affection Shapes a Baby's Brain" - the title says it all. Why are some people better at dealing with stress? This book can be a little academic, but it's still readable and anyone who works with mothers and babies should definitely read it. Sue Gerhardt explains the effects of Cortisol, the 'Stress Hormone', on the developing nervous system and how a baby's earliest experiences of affection have long-lasting effects on their health.

I am really interested in the way this book brings together instinctive parenting actions, like comforting a baby when they cry, and modern science, pointing out why not doing so can have serious physical and psychological consequences. All babies are different, with different needs.

I was interested to read that following baby's lead seems to be more important than doing everything 'Right'. And, that not starting out on the right foot at infancy can be remedied later on, particularly if the mother gets the help she needs to get over her own upbringing.

Edited: Visit for more on understanding your baby's (and your own!) needs. 


Unknown said…
How lucky is Chas. That would have been an amazing experience.
I have heard good things about Last Child in the Woods, but haven't read it (yet). I agree, though, that kids don't have the same type of outside play that we used to have. And not just structured sports, but all the unstructured outdoor exploration is missing. And I think that affects their creativity and imagination. Ah, so much more to say but not enough to fit into this comment box :)
Glad to see you back!
Anonymous said…
As a treehugger on 60 rural acres, I'm clapping hard over here. We live her for EXACTLY that reason. Nature and outdoor play (out of mother's watchful eye) is SO essential to how kids develop.

So are hugs, of course;)
aclare said…
I agree that children no longer do the things that we did as children. And I guess this proves I'm getting old because I want to use the phrase "in MY day".

When we eventually have children I want them to exprience lots of things old and new. Although being Montessori trained I suppose this just feels like a natural course of parenting.

And with Sam - perhaps different shapes would help organise things. Like triangles for one subject and squares for another. I dunno might work.
BlueBella said…
Looks like good books my dear! It's amazing what getting dirty can do for kids:)
Anonymous said…
I'm about 98% sure that I'm going to homeschool Zara. The ''Montessori'' is not Montessori. She is stressed, even with me there. I can do so much more with her than she would ever do in school, especially when it comes to ''playing in the woods''.

These 2 books are so in-tune with where my thoughts are right now. No such thing as coincidence!

Nan Sheppard said…
Sounds like 'Last Child in the Woods' really struck a chord here! Thanks to Kelly who sent it to me... I'll be sending 'Why Love Matters' to her so if any Trinis want to give it a read you'll have to visit Kelly!
Miira Dawson said…
Nan, I'm so pleased you're spreading the word on "Why love matters". Reading it has been such a life-changing experience for me and has really brought home the importance of my parenting choices -I can't stop raving about it to everybody! I think everybody (not just parents or parents-to-be) should read it and society would make a lot more sense and improve considerably! And I can't WAIT to read the Last Child in the Woods!
aclare said…
I wish there was some way to have the Montessori method policed (besides Ofsted). Like make a fine for those nurseries that call themselves 'Montessori' when they clearly aren't. As it gives the whole method a bad name. And the Department of Education should recognise it as a legitimate method! True Montessori is very hard to find! If I were Queen!