'Kids can learn everything in Nature without adult instructions all the time'

It's a suny day in Atlanta, with all the flavours of nature; from beautiful green colour to the buring hues of brown sand. The nature has its own way to invite and it attracts differently to differnet individal, I believe it knows what one needs at the moment. For many, its a beauty, for others its exploraton, for few, its a curiosity -led-adventure, and for very few,its a world of discovery every moment.

Amy just arrived and wanted to play. I asked her if she was interested in outdoor play, she was overwhelmed by the idea and so we landed in our backyard.
"Wow I like to play here, is this a Sand area for kid's play ? she asked delightfully.

"Why not, we can play here, and Ithink we need few sand toys," Ireplied. I was wondering where should I get the toys  as theres nothing nearby. But thats the difference between an adult (limited mindset) mind and a child's (free mindset) mind, Sara suggested ,"Oh wow, i have plastic spoons, forks, cups and few other stuff in the kitchen , i think we can use them to dig, scratch pour and all".
I was simply amazed.

I sprayed water in the Sand area so she could have some muddy experience as weather was hot and water was naturally needed. Amy started sorting out her tools, digging with spoons and forks. She was fascinated with her own movements; scratching the mud creating different shapes, tiny landscapes and amazing textures. It was wonderful to observe how these children interact with the world when no one is there to instruct. Imagination runs wild!

Amy was exploring not only the tools with her little hands and its impact on the mud but she was busy exploring the water accumulated in the hole.
 The water itself was a discovery for her....
I didn't interupt by sharing views about solid and liquid, the mind itself was   makig impression, its visible to a naked eye, yes Observation is all we need !

She was excited with all her new discoveries, she shouted, " I want to cook, cook some soup"
I was  amused by the idea , so I tried to give her some cooking tips, She loved the idea of tiny leaves and then here appeared a wonderful conversation ,everything related to soup and cooking, I added to the vocabulary!

 There was so much to cook, to add, to pour, to stir, to look upon, to be careful of, to be creative!

 Every addition of a leaf or rock was blowing the mind with endless queries, countless explorations and awe led discoveries. Amy whispered, "I can see leaves in my vegetable soup, it looks so beautiful!"

I couldn't stop myself with the inflow of ideas, she was engaged with..It was mind blowing!
Every drop of sand, every piece of a leaf, and every bouncing rock was creating magical scenes.

As I was in that awe, Amy got up saying that she needed  more water , because she would be cooking for more people (what a mathametical mind!)

While she was filling the cup with the water, she began to walk in the same rythm as she used to walk, but sson she realized that she needed to slow down, she said, ' Can we walk slow, I'm carrying water , it might slip ".
Do we really need to remind kids to be carefull?

The journey ended and the water filled the Soup pot. She was pouring water , creating a rich muddy soup, indulging in her own self-talk full of ideas, awakenings, and Awe.....

Amy was exploring the whole backyard , she got differnt leaves of different sizes, patterns and colours and was amazed with each element of nature. She kept adding in her soup till she thought she needed more water...
What an amazing  balance, a mind is always looking for !

Im the one observing and recording everything in my long term memory.

 It was a toad who surprized us when we were in a shock to discover the Live camouflage....

It's a moment of  awareness for a child who can sense that there are living beings living beside her....

Nothing is more natural than a play which is as spontaneous as a child herself !

That's true learning, regardless of where it happens.....

                                                 HAPPY CHILDREN'S DAY

                               'BELIEVE IN CHILDREN, DEAL WITH EMPATHY'

Children are human beings to whom Respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of the future" -
Maria Montessorie


We spend hours, and hours thinking and planning about the education of our children. It seems we all stuck up somewhere between the real meaning of education and the ability to read and write and do perfect Mathematics.
How do you define Education?
Everyone has a right to define  Education....
Someone defined in this way, " “Education is not about Academics only, it’s just a fraction of it, we should not forget that the true purpose of Education is to make minds not careers”.

I came up with mine,"Our vision of EDUCATION  is to create a world where every youngster is supported and respected for his unique talent and creativity and to ensure healthy development in terms of his physical, intellectual, psychological, social, moral and spiritual dimensions  of his personality. We envision a world where diversity takes precedence over racism, where tolerance over come war. "

In a school in US, after facing lots of BULLYING , teachers were naturally forced to redefine EDUCATION.
And here is their Principal’s description on what education should be.......

"The teachers here believe that schooling is not just about the academic curriculum, but is about teaching kids how to be resilient, successful community members. I think that gets forgotten in a lot of schools, especially with all the Common Core requirements and testing for reading, writing and math. We teach all those things and we teach them well. But there’s a collective agreement that that’s not the only piece important to education—there’s a huge piece that is about teaching kids how to get along, how to understand themselves, and how to be themselves.” —Julia Beers, second grade teacher at Malcolm X

A new definition emerged by a teacher......

Let's do an activity :
Create a long one and then scrutinize......

Hold on....

We all hear about the 21st century skills and the need for the schools to prepare our children with competence needed to solve the problems with creativity and innovation. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is dominating the education scene. But with the advent of new research studies, it is getting clearer each day that Emotional Intelligence is one of the most determining factor of success. This is often one critical area of development that is missing from the visionof our Education system: teaching children how to build creative, intuitive, trusting an collaborative relationships with others.

According to Harvard Business Review, "“Empathy is considered to be the most important Skill of the century”.

But what is empathy?

'You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.' - 
Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Empathy is a level above than Sympathy: where one takes the mask of another and try to feel and think from his perspectives with a goal to understand him better and solve the problem arises at a given point of time.

On this important day of INTERNATIONAL CHILDREN'S DAY, I would love to spread the messge of love ....for love , care , and empathy will  heal the world which is bleeding with hatred.

Let's begin with children for they are the hope of the future....

Trust children , treat them with Empathy ...Ablolish Punishment....

As a teacher you have greater responsibility on your shoulders than Politicians ,,,just focus on what we can create a better world.....

By Erum Khan: 
         Erum works for CNNA that works to connect children with Nature through specially designed Nature based curriculum. She is a proactive researcher and blogger and writes regularly under her blog “Children learn Best in their Free-Play”. As a member of HRCP and ISPCAN, IPA, ARNEC, AMS (American Montessori Society), PMA (Pakistan Montessori Association) and ACEI (USA), she is contributing towards raising the standard of education and Education Diplomacy. Currently she is working on the Science of Observation and its impact on the learning process. Erum is available for Teacher training workshops and courses through CNNA.



                                  SEVEN STONES - A FORGOTTEN GAME

Its hard to believe that childhood is been endangered since the advent of hi-tech games, Helicopter parenting, super-standardized testing, No recess theory, all time academic schools, stranger danger phobias, modern lifestyles and yes the advent of ugly Urbanization in the name of development.

Gone are the days!

Traditional games and cultural play are essence to any society and their presence in one's town or village makes sure that the childhood is not at stake , but its there to stay with all its beauty and purity.

As a Play researcher and an advocate of Play right for every child, i believe we need to do more than just crying over the spilt milk...we need to work in communities, schools, parks, gardens, with parents, teachers, day care providers, youth councils and policy makers to see our dreams happening , at least budding , so we can cherish the moments and carry on with our vision for a more playful world.

I often go to local parks, visit abandoned gardens, observe narrow streets, and walkaways, dusty playgrounds, ill maintained public spaces, there's one thing common , the children can be seen playing around with whatever facilities they have , just diving into play for the sake of it.

Its a story of a Third world nation, but I believe its happening everywhere , where children are born and raised!

We started to study the deep rooted culture of traditional childhood play and for that I planned to study individual games, which are abandoned but still can be seen in the streets where poor kids play with their hearts and souls in it.

                                            HIT THE SEVEN STONES:
                                                    (PITTU GARAM)

This game is very popular among boys in the region of South East Asia (India and Pakistan) and similar games can be seen in other parts of the world. Here children need to collect seven stones, they should have a ball to throw, and they need to make two teams , each must comprise of 3- 5 players, but it can exceed to any number. The more the players, the more the fun!

There are two teams. One has to break the stack of seven stones with ball and reorder them back, The defending team has to prevent this by hitting the player of the other team with the ball. In this case the round ends.


How to play
  • Divide the players into two teams. Let there be team A and team B.
  • Each player in team A takes their turn in breaking the tower from a certain distance using a tennis ball.
  • A player from team B is assigned to catch the ball after it gets thrown by team A. Rest of team b become fielders.
  • When a player from team A succeeds in knocking over the tower. the team's next aim becomes to rebuild the tower while everyone in team B tries to get all the players out in team A by hitting them with the tennis ball.
  • If team B succeeds in getting the players with the pitu coin in hand out from team A before the tower is rebuilt then they have defended a pittu.
  • But if team B fails to do so then team A gets a pittu and they carry on with their turn in breaking the tower.
  • Once everyone in team A has had their turn the teams swap the roles.
  • After both teams have defended the team with most number of pittu(s) wins

    Teams are forming:

    Its amazing to see children coming up with rules without any instructions from adults..They have a tendency to follow rules, we should learn it from kids!


    Its lovely to see kids interacting with elements of Nature !


    Every time children play , they create a boundary to that, either imaginary or physical, so that the Play cannot be invaded by a third party element. They might build something, add something, renovate , and change the infrastructure depending what is best suited for that particular day and play. 

    And now its time to hit with a ball, lets see how many you can get with a throw!


    1. Sharpening of senses : when kids look for rocks in ant natural environment.
    2. Observational skills: When kids search for perfect sizes of rocks , they actually sharpen their Observatory skills, which is almost on decline among modern day kids.
    3. Collection techniques: While kids collect different rocks, they are becoming conscious of the Scientific method they are using to collect things for specific purpose, sensing the details of any object is crucial to Scientific Method.
    4. Fine-Motor Skills: When kids collect, play, and actually arrange them for the purpose of game, their fine motor skills are been sharpened without any instructions from adults to achieve the goal.
    5. Hitting means accuracy: when a child aims to hit any object he first has to be concentrating on it , which develops their focus, increase their Span of Attention , thus creating more avenues for hightened focus.
    6. Hypothesis in play: when kids create these games, work on it: arrange the rocks, check to see the details , standing positions, accurate hitting techniques, they are actually create HYPOTHESIS in their minds , while getting the information recorded in their brains for further data collection and conclusions.
    7. Gross-motor skills: when kids run around in open spaces, jump, hip hop , they do use their gross motor skills and it gets better with each movement all unknowingly...
    8. Social skills: Playing with friends and siblings are the best ways to develop natural ways of communication: dialogue, debate, problem solving, decision making and many other complex social skills which can't be taught in schools or through Direct instructions by adults.
    9. Emotional literacy: While kids learn language and mathematics 75 % of the time in our modern day classrooms and Home work-oriented houses, they learn emotional mastery best in their play. Learning to take turns, care for your friends, feeling different kinds of emotions, controlling temper to stay in the group and creating loving playful atmosphere among the group are all the work of simple Free-play ..
    There are many other skills which kids learn in these traditional games and play, I just sum up few to start the discussion, please feel free to add your perspective....

    ENJOY !

                                                NATURE IS ALL OUR CHILDREN NEED 

    We were the last generation who played outside, ran freely in the fields, jumped on puddles, climbed trees, had real pets, dug holes, smell flowers, woke up at dawn, played in Mud pie kitchens in our backyards, noticed the rainbows, felt the rain, could detect squirrels, and discover bugs........

    Although today's children have better Internet connections, they never get the opportunity to connect with Nature...

    On one hand,with the advent of technology, humans are evolving their brains, exploring new Planets , reaching new heights of human civilization, but on the other hand they are loosing humanity, facing the death of great civilizations, reaching the new heights of spiritual degradation and drowning into the depth of corruption on all emotional and social parameters.

    This is the first time in the history of mankind that we started fearing Nature, so much that we ask our children to go inside when it rains, to hide themselves inside the man-made structures when it snows, to cover themselves more when the sun shines, to wear boots when contacted with sand, to watch out when they sit near streams or lakes, to shout when they witness lizards or bugs, to kill when they encounter ants, to stay away from dirt and soil when they want to go crazy playing on it, to lock themselves indoors when they encounter windy days, to become deaf so that they can never hear the sounds of birds chirping and the squirrels chittering, to go blind when a flower is blossoming, to be ignorant to see the wonders of nature all in their backyards.

    Gone are the days when children walked to school, when they ran freely in the fields, when they took the back streets to enter the woods, when they climbed trees and discover nests of birds, when they wandered and explore the gardens, when they could feel the sand and jump on puddles, when they monitor wandering animals and discover their habitats , when they collected flowers and made necklaces , when they dug cave like holes and hid treasures, when they created their own mud kitchens, when they discovered the changing sky and could predict the weather, when they spotted the injured birds, when they could predict the perfect season to fly their kites, when they could calculate the high tides on summer days....
    There are millions of explorations and discoveries which were made by children everyday, every moment.
    But gone are the days......

    Contrary to what is happening now in our modern day human societies, we can still Observe children and their love for Nature , their learning appetite and their Awe-based exploration. But we need to give them a natural environment to observe their behavior and it's connection with nature. 


    I could see how children dive into an Imaginary world, where they exist with their own fantasy: it's wonderful to witness their wilderness and curiosity. I was wondering and feeling ashamed how we adult think about children , how much we underestimate their powers, their motivation level, their curiosity, and sense of’s like I'm discovering HUMAN BEINGS on my own apart from what I knew about them.

      Every child learns in his own way, I discovered that each one experienced a unique way of grasping, so it’s all about INDIVIDUAL UNIQUE LEARNIN , which cannot be generalized .That's the beauty of natural  learning.

    As my Journey of Observation continued, I started exploring more deeply, and became more interested into knowing HOW CHILDREN LEARN NATURALLY rather than focusing on HOW I made them learn the way I choose.
     Amazing discoveries kept bombarded my senses and I was recording those facts to see how we as adults ignored the Power of Play in the learning process.
    Observing the natural Play of children, I discovered another truth that Nature is a force to tap the natural CURIOSITY in children which automatically guides them to Explore.

     “Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.”
    - John Lubbock

    The "immense concentration of a child" is the natural outcome when he works in nature, we need not to do anything to build up the span of attention in children or speed up their curiosity or raise their concentration level. It’s already there in their SOULS. Stickers and behavior Charts (artificial reward systems) never work in reality, it only makes a child greedy and ignorant.

    No use to shout at them to pay attention. If the situations, the materials, the problems before the child do not interest him, his attention will slip off to what does interest him, and no amount of exhortation of threats will bring it back.”
    - John Holt

    Children can never be seen so satisfied as can be seen when they reach their goals and targets by themselves .And it is not we (adults) who can direct them towards their UNIQUE GOALS , its embedded inside them and they are the best judges and leaders of their destiny, if only we can think differently .
    In the words of Maria Montessori," "When children come into contact with NATURE, they reveal their strength".

    Hence , the need for Nature based schools and learning environment is more deeper today than anytime in the history of man..And if we want to Inspire the young minds, motivate more Innovators and Change makers , we have to Reinvent the idea of Nature schools.
    “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.”
    - Rachel Carson

                   Watch the Nature sounds Video:


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         Children Who Spend Time in Nature Will Always Care for It

    “When children come into contact with nature, they reveal their strength.”
    — Maria Montessori

    We believe there is an urgent need to bring a paradigm shift in education, especially in the early years, so that children’s tendencies to explore nature will become the basis of our education system. Our focus should be on nature-play, which has the power to develop a healthy child in terms of physical, psychological, emotional, social, and intellectual terms. Nature-play is not a new discovery when it comes to educating young minds; it’s the only medium used by man throughout history to learn and discover the hidden magic of the universe.

    Environmental researchers are constantly reminding us of the dangers and threats our world is facing starting with global warming and extending to extreme water crises. Scientists and communities, governments and agencies are struggling to combat the damage. We believe that short term, we have to take immediate measures to minimize the damaging effects. But if we want to work on a long-term basis, we have to start from scratch; to produce a generation of people who not only think about solutions to the vast environmental problems, but also participate in creating a sustainable environment. This can only be done through a revolutionary nature-based education system with campaigns and ‘green’ programs, especially in the early years to instill love for nature: children who spend time in nature will always care for it. This is a fact which we are witnessing. People who spend their childhood in nature are the ones who are taking the initiative to identify environmental problems, to combat them by offering solutions, to choose environmental-related professions, and to work with their hearts to save the earth and its habitats from disaster

    Instead of developing their own educational modules, educators should be observing children in their natural surroundings to see how they learn. It’s our observation that children are naturally curious. Researchers are proving that educators can use nature as a force to attract natural curiosity and exploration tendencies in children. The “immense concentration of a child” is the natural outcome when he works in nature; we do not need to do anything to build up children’s attention spans or speed up their curiosity — it’s already there. It’s a chain reaction: nature awakens natural curiosity, which leads to exploration and ends up in discovery; that’s how humans learn. “A book of botany or zoology has the power to stimulate the already curious human mind, but nature has the power to change this curiosity into discovery” (Erum 2010, Children & Nature Network blog). 

    I have observed this in my students. Their senses sharpen dramatically as soon as they are taken outside. Their sense of wonder appears, leading them to investigate like scientists: „ They discover the laws of nature every day. „ As they play, their senses alert them to the different sizes, colors, and shapes of rocks. „ They experience the amazing strength in a piece of rock as compared to a piece of leaf. „ They discover the law of gravity when they throw one of those rocks and observe the glorious effect it has on water when it lands in a pool. „ They learn about climate, seasons, weather, and all about botany when they play in seasonal gardens. Ultimately, children understand the whole landscape all by playing in nature.

    My message is simple. When we start realizing the power of discovery on children’s learning and lives, we will be able to champion environmental stewardship. Let’s change the way we educate young minds; let’s connect children with nature.

    Erum Kamran works as a Montessori Directress, Play expert, Nature-based curriculum developer, and children’s rights advocate. She founded the Children and Nature Network Asia (CNNA) in Asia to address connections between children and nature in educational and social surroundings through Teacher training programs and Children workshops.