The Benefits of Nature

One of the themes that keeps showing up in my writing is nature. Maybe it’s because I grew up on a fruit farm, or maybe it’s because going outside always refreshes me. Lately, I’ve been enamoured with forests, particularly old growth forests. We have a few in Michigan, and my family and I recently visited one in Indiana: Bendix Nature Preserve. A few photos I took are posted below.

This is one of the many huge trees there. And the one below had an interesting trunk.

I’ve also been reading Yoshifumi Miyazaki’s beautiful book Shinrin Yoku: The Japanese Art of Forest Bathing in which he presents compelling research on the benefits of being among trees and nature. For example, “Children who spend regular time in nature on average experience an increase in self-confidence, problem-solving skills, motor skills and the capacity to learn.” Wow!

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Miyazaki is a professor and forest therapy researcher in Japan, but this book is very easy to read, and is filled with beautiful photos. Also, he makes me want to go outside more.

Book recommendations

Because I write books for children, that means I also read many, many books for children. Many people ask me for recommendations, and so, about eight years ago, I started a blog featuring my favourite books--young adult/teen, middle grade and picture books. Lately, I've been reviewing more picture books than anything else, but I'm still reading everything. I love to discover great books, and I only post about books that I highly recommend. 

Also, I'm always sure to point out via tags if an author or illustrator is Canadian (because I'm Canadian!) or if they are from Michigan (I live in Michigan!). So, please, stop by An Education in Books Blog--Must-read books for kids, and leave a comment. See you there!

 Oh, Canada...

Oh, Canada...

 Michigan, the Great Lakes state

Michigan, the Great Lakes state

The Importance of Imaginative Play

Because my background is in education and special education, and I do some contract work for an educational foundation, I'm always interested in the latest research. Lately, at work, we've been talking about something called executive function, which is extremely important in early childhood. It's an umbrella term that refers to the brain's ability to plan, organize, strategize, pay attention and remember details. And, it turns out that imaginative play, especially in early childhood, may help develop executive function!

Whatever you want to call it--pretend play, make-believe, fantasy play, imaginative play--it's important for the kids in your life. So pull out the dress-up clothes, put on that stethoscope, or grab those pots and pans and mix up a huge batch of imaginative play.

 Tariq H. from Mississauga, Ontario, reimagined Salad Pie, falling down the slide, and his teacher sent me this detailed (and labeled!) drawing. Thank you, Tariq!

Tariq H. from Mississauga, Ontario, reimagined Salad Pie, falling down the slide, and his teacher sent me this detailed (and labeled!) drawing. Thank you, Tariq!