A toy can be a wonderful thing for a child, and as we approach the Holiday Season, toys may be the first thing on the minds of children everywhere. Toys can be a source of inspiration, entertainment, creative play, family togetherness, and the development of cognitive reasoning, social and fine motor skills. The question I am pondering today is: Do toys need to come at the expense of time spent in nature?
Looking again at that list of benefits, I see no reason that nature cannot do the same. In fact, I have witnessed this to be true during my time with Nevada Outdoor School as well as in my personal life.
However, there is an advertisement that was run by Toys ‘R’ Us® recently that might suggest otherwise. You can watch that ad here: Toys R Us Ad
Many of us in the outdoor education profession are quite disappointed that Toys ‘R’ Us® chose to run this. What a great opportunity for a group of children, providing them with a toy of their choosing, but what benefit comes from taking a shot at outdoor education and time spent in nature?
Outdoor education is certainly not boring as these smiling faces will attest too:
In addition to having fun, studies show that these children will have greater academic success, lowered risk for childhood obesity and related diseases, improvement in attention disorders and stronger social skills. Their time outdoors has increased the impact of what they learn in the classroom and helped to make solid connections to topics in science and ecology. Nevada Outdoor School’s programming is engaging, hands-on and inquiry based. We tend to sing songs on the bus as opposed to memorizing photos of leaves.
There is a lot more that could be said about all of this. We could turn it into a big battle between commercialism and the environment, or comment on the billions of dollars spent marketing to children each year to the point where their ability to recall corporate brands and logos is astounding. However, I think a simple conclusion is best: Toys can be great, spending time in nature is great, both should be a part of every child’s life and they don’t need to compete.