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The Benefits of Variety in Nature

Most people won't find this photograph very appealing. It's far too complicated. It doesn't seem to have any particular place on which to focus the eye. For me, it is a compelling shot. I love looking at this scene with its complex variety of shapes, lines, textures, colors, temperatures, reflections, and elements. Looking at this is like watching a fire. It is mesmerizing and calming. The plants and trees are dormant, yet they are alive. The water curves and flows and sometimes slows and freezes. A human artist would struggle for hours to capture such detail. Here it is presented with such a vast array of unique details that one can't take it all in.

Variety in nature can be a teacher for children. Ruth Wilson, PhD, said this: "Sand, soil, and sticks are examples of natural materials that make wonderful play props and are essential for nature-play activities. Children find many creative ways to play with natural materials, both indoors and out. Natural materials can be easily manipulated and are rich in transformability and flexibility. A stick can become a spoon for stirring soup or a tool for writing in the sand. Children readily use natural materials for building, for 'cooking,' for making collages or designs, for pouring and stacking, for burying, for transporting, and for many other imaginative activities." (Source - "Learning is in Bloom") Variety in nature can provide some surprising additional benefits: better vision and improved balance. Research has shown that outdoor time is a big predictor of whether kids become nearsighted. The exact reasons are not known, but some scientists believe that focusing on objects near and far is beneficial as opposed to focusing on a fixed object like a computer or television.

Golden Harper, a runner and the inventor of the Altra shoe brand, recommended that I walk on uneven surfaces such as a mountain trail rather than strictly on even surfaces like a paved road. He said that the uneven surfaces help develop different muscles and lead to better physical coordination. Children also benefit from a variety of surfaces and structures.

"Climbing a tree, chasing a friend or a bird, standing on one foot, falling over, hanging from bars, swinging, jumping over or into puddles, all help develop a child’s sense of balance, coordination and strength. Being outside, moving about and playing in nature, contribute to a child’s fitness. It isn’t planned or prescribed—it is child-centered, self-directed and spontaneous."*

The variety of nature adds not only "spice" to life but also provides key developmental elements for growing children. Children at Marbles Farm will love getting outside and experiencing variety in nature. *

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