Nature therapy can mean many things to different people. I used the term personally many years ago whenever we went on a camping trip without knowing it was a professional term. I called any trip out to nature with no electronics (minus a GPS) as nature therapy time. I viewed nature time as a requirement for me. I need and crave the solace found in the wilderness, especially mountains; but any wildlife area will do. We discovered that our son slept the best when he was outside hiking around or swimming a lot. Only recently I had discovered that nature therapy really does exist and goes by other names such as ecotherapy, ecopsychology, and nature cure. I also have discovered that there are now studies on the benefit of nature contact and training for jobs in nature therapy fields. Now, I view nature therapy as a part of homeschooling and roadschooling.
In public school recess is too short, too infrequent, and too rule bound. There really is no free time to play or explore in/with nature. Thus, summertime or vacations become the only time to really enjoy nature. Not so anymore with homeschooling! We can go outside and get nature time whenever we want to. We can take trips to state parks and national parks without restrictions. We can do nature studies year round and at any location. Special field trips and road trips can be for nature therapy.
I am saddened by how few children in America really get to enjoy the outdoors. I also see a huge culture in America that is nature-deprived. Thus, I am thankful for homeschooling and being able to have significantly more nature therapy. I know now that there are studies documenting the benefits of contact with nature: higher self-esteem, reduced anxiety, reduced stress, and improved sleep (Psychology Today, CRC Health Group, Outside, The Academy of Natural Therapy, and many others). I know that at our son enjoys our special trips to the outdoors and I hope to continue offering many more! Its a great way to learn natural science, practice observation, understand conservation, get outside and play (recess or PE), and appreciate an activity that can become a lifelong hobby.
Here are the forms of nature therapy that we do:
- nature walks
- bike rides
- rain walks
- building bug homes (what DS calls it when building mini teepees)
- visiting state & national parks
- visiting birding sanctuaries
- kayaking, canoeing, & boat rides
- throwing rocks
- leaf hunts
- star gazing
- visiting nature & garden centers