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Nurturing at Home and Outside the Home and Nurturing Conclusions

Angela Oswalt, MSW, Natalie Staats Reiss, Ph.D and Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

Many of the nurturing activities described in this article can easily take place inside the home. However, venturing out of the home into the surrounding community on "field trips" can also provide wonderful learning opportunities for young children. Nurture activities taking place outside the home are frequently more rich and complex than in-home activities, offering opportunities for children to gain physically, cognitively, socially, and culturally all at once.

city streetMost cities of any size offer children's museums, or museums that contain exhibits for children focusing on art, history, science, or a combination of subjects. Such age-appropriate exhibits and interactive displays help children learn, experiment, and play. As well, some cities have zoos and aquariums, which offer children opportunities to learn about the various animals that live on our planet.

A day at the museum, zoo or aquarium can be an expensive and inconvenient and thus infrequent activity. Luckily, many community activities will likely be available that cost little or no money and still offer rich, interactive opportunities for children. For example, libraries frequently offer free programming for toddlers and preschool-aged children, in the form of weekly story hours, craft sessions, and summer reading programs featuring special guests. Such activities spark children's love of reading, and also encourage young kids to interact with peers, while practicing listening and reading skills and also social skills such as paying attention and developing patience.

Urban children may benefit from a visit to a farm that features livestock. Farms provide children with the opportunity to see horses, sheep, pigs, goats, and chickens close-up, rather than just in books or on television. At some farms, kids may even be able to touch or feed the animals, or collect eggs from a chicken coop. Better yet, they can meet farmers, who can talk about animals and growing crops from first-hand knowledge.

Various other sorts of fun field trips are also possible. Community parks and recreation departments may make pools, playgrounds and hiking trails available during summer months or throughout the year (depending on where you live). If there's an airport somewhat close by, parents can take their children inside the airport to a lounge area (outside the security zone) to watch the airplanes take off and land. Parents can also research any fun factories that may be in the area, such as food, toy, or everyday items, and see if these factories offer tours for free or a small fee. Even a trip to the grocery store can become an exciting field trip when parents think creatively. Simple games, such as "Help Mom find the products on her coupons" (most appropriate for older children) or "Count the number of babies you see" can transform a simple shopping trip into a cognitively, socially, and emotionally stimulating event.

Conclusion

Nurturing activities are vital to children's proper development, providing them with opportunities to learn and the secure knowledge that they are valued and loved. Parents have at their disposal many different ways to nurture children's physical, mental, social, emotional, and cultural development. For example, parents are nurturing their children when they teach them how to play a sport, how to count to ten, how to read, how to make friends, how to express their emotions, and how to celebrate communal beliefs and traditions. Most every interaction parents have with their children can become an opportunity for a nurturing, supportive exchange when parents approach such interactions with loving care and creativity.

Nurturing activities should be times of fun, family bonding, and play rather than strict exercises in memorization, speed, or accuracy. Whether swinging like a monkey in the park, experimenting with magnets in the kitchen, finger painting in the driveway, playing make-believe in the attic, cuddling on the couch before bed, or eating family dinner at Grandma's house, children will appreciate that learning is fun. They will also learn that the more they try the more successful they'll become. Most importantly, children will learn that the adults they love love them back, and will support them. This foundation of love and support sets the stage for healthy family trust and open communication; a state of affairs that becomes increasingly important as children grow to become more independently minded adolescents and naturally encounter more difficult life choices.