In her article, “The Language of the Senses: The Power of Sensory-Rich Outdoor Play and Learning Spaces for All Children,” Jena Ponti-Jauchius shares this:
Something interesting happens when a child enters a natural environment, whether it is a park playground, an outdoor classroom, or even their own backyard. A child initiates an unspoken conversation with their environment, and it goes something like this…
A child “asks,” “Hey, environment, what will you offer me? What will I experience here? How will I play and spark my imagination? How will I know I am safe? What will I learn from you? How may I grow here?”
We are always dialoguing with nature, though as adults we tend to be less aware of its magic and power. Children’s dialogue with nature is a state of deep and complex development. Their internal quest is to gather as much information as they can. Theirs is an innate childhood drive to seek out constant, high-quality (i.e. natural) sensory experiences. The more information they take in, the more information they have about their external world, and the healthier their growth and well-being.
Considering a familiar outdoor (or indoor) space for children, how would you respond to the questions Ponti Jauchius poses on behalf of children:
- “Hey, environment, what will you offer me?
- What will I experience here?
- How will I play and spark my imagination?
- How will I know I am safe?
- What will I learn from you?
- How may I grow here?”