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Earth Day and Early Development

Appel Farm is gearing up for our Earth Day Celebration, a free event to honor the environment with an afternoon of concerts, plantings, and workshops!

Environmentalism is the focus of this week’s activities, in particular, but it’s never out of the minds of Appel Farmers.

During Camp, campers are encouraged to get out onto the grounds and explore the local environment. Conventional wisdom says that children should be given ample time to play in the outdoors and enjoy the the “fresh air”. Modern research is also suggesting major developmental gains for children who get those several hours to stretch their legs in the great outdoors.

The more senses children engage, the better. Learning takes place, not only in the classroom, but in every new thing children are able to see, smell, and touch. Playtime is an essential part of helping brains grow big and strong, with as much sensory input as possible. In fact, “children who don’t play much or are rarely touched develop brains 20 percent to 30 percent smaller than normal for their age”1. Outdoor interactions are an opportunity for children to develop a reverence for nature, take personal risks, gain independence and confidence, and experience new connections with their world that connect them with their environment and inspire a sense of ownership.

The outdoors give children a unique play experience that they can’t get anywhere else. Shrubberies and trees give the opportunity for children to hide, climb, and travel diverse landscapes. This unstructured play gives children the remarkable opportunity to develop things like motor skills, coordination, and balance. In fact, youngsters that were encouraged to play in natural landscapes were shown to have significantly better-developed fine motor skills than their peers who spent more time indoors2.

Playing “outdoors” has shifted in recent years to mean big, colorful swing sets, jungle gyms, and very structured play options. These have an excellent place in encouraging children to stay active in modern society. However, the very best sort of play environment for children seems to be the kind that occurs in our natural environments. Children who often play outside, manipulating objects in the physical world show signs of more advanced motor skills, better sense of self (self-esteem), and pro-social behaviors3.

Despite all this evidence that natural outdoor play is significantly beneficial for child development, there is still evidence that today’s kids are not getting the same amount of outdoor play as their parents4. This isn’t too surprising, though. As cities expand and technology gets more advanced, the appeal of staying indoors gets more and more tempting. But, considering the obviously positive affects on children’s motor skills, social development, and mood4, what can be done to make sure modern children don’t miss out on this essential piece of development?

At Appel Farm, we take every opportunity to make sure our campers get out and get involved with the beautiful countryside around us. Our free time periods give campers the opportunity to explore and interact with the environment. During “Community Jobs” time, one of our jobs is to help maintain our community garden, where campers get to plant, till, trim, and even EAT the fruits of their labor.

For the past several of years, we’ve even held a major AND minor called “Green Corps”. During this class, students get out onto the extensive grounds of Appel Farm, catching frogs, learning about the local ecosystem, and charting their findings in new and creative ways.

Eight weeks in the great outdoors can go by pretty fast, but we do all that we can to make sure our kiddos get to enjoy all the bounty of our local resources.

We look forward to seeing you back on the Farm soon!

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If you’d like to come celebrate the earth AND Appel Farm, come on out and join us on Sunday, April 24th, for a special, FREE Earth Day Celebration from noon-4 PM AND Camp Tour starting at 2 PM.