Nature and movement stimulate growth. Not just muscular growth, but neurological growth. When we experience and move our bodies in nature, we are taking in through our senses varied stimuli, and we are moving our bodies in relation to these stimuli. We are unconsciously learning something about ourselves and developing a deeper identity.
Research on the brain and nature conducted by the University of Michigan shows that after walking in a nature environment, people have better concentration and memory than those who walk down a city street. When we are overburdened by too much information, we make more impulsive choices. Daily life devoid of the calm of nature can lead to more habitual behaviors that keep us stuck in the status quo. When our brains are quieted by nature, reduced stimuli, and more natural rhythms, there is an opportunity to make different decisions that lead to personal growth and greater life satisfaction. It is totally different from the passive experience of watching television or being overstimulated by shopping in a mall.
Giving this gift to our children on a regular basis creates an opportunity for a healthy identity to arise. The more rich and rewarding experiences a child has with her family (where she feels most safe), the more curious and capable she will become. Not just because she learned how to cook a hot dog over a fire, but also because her creative self was given the opportunity to experience and move in her own unique way. She got to attend to what was interesting to her, do something with it, and share it with others. Perhaps she finds the stream of water near the campsite intriguing, enjoys whittling a piece of wood into an arrow, likes watching the squirrels chase each other while gathering nuts, or simply tends the fire while lost in thought. Whatever her natural inclinations, camping offers a way to enrich her understanding and experiences of those interests.