Nature’s playground: Why the Finns love the forest

The magic of trees

In Finland, enjoying a stroll through the woods is not a luxury, but a human right. Known as “Jokamiehenoikeudet”, or “Everyman’s Right,” this ancient law gives Finns the freedom to explore the thickest forests and the largest parks whenever they want, and even pick berries and mushrooms without having to ask the owner for permission.

But if you’re unable to explore a Finnish-sized forest in uninterrupted bliss, don’t stress, as it only takes a short walk through a local tree-filled park to reconnect with nature. Studies prove that even a small number of trees planted in busy cities have profound effects on our minds and bodies. What’s more, urban trees encourage kids to play outdoors while increasing their attention span, and even decreasing their risk of asthma. These fantastic qualities are all thanks to phytoncides, the tiny microbial substances that trees release into the air. Small yet sturdy, these miniature compounds are great at boosting the immune system, which gets kids fighting-fit and ready to take on the world.

Finnish kids are taught to love nature

Finns treat the forest as an extension of the classroom. Here, kids can learn and develop new skills, with some Finnish kindergartens even encouraging toddlers to spend their entire day outside, where their only assignment is to let curiosity and adventure lead the way. This unique learning style is welcomed by the Finnish government—who recommend kids play outdoors at least 3 hours a day—and by experts such as Inu Pelli. Inu, who leads mindfulness hikes for the Finnish outdoor activity company Natura Viva believes Finnish kindergartens have the right idea.

“We form a relationship with nature in early childhood,” she explains. “This stays with us right into adulthood. "

As toddlers grow into school kids, the forest opens a new world of limitless possibilities by encouraging them to swap digital computer games for physical play. This leaves space and time to build active imaginations and to better understand the world around them. And that’s not all— the forest is a perfect environment for running, jumping, climbing and building, which is an enjoyable way for kids to build muscle, sharpen coordination and make new friends.

Trees benefit us all

In Finland, there are an astonishing ten trees for every person, and only four percent of Finnish forests are disturbed by humans, which has a positive impact on the planet.

As global warming’s effect becomes more apparent, the world’s trees are absorbing 25 percent of the world’s human-generated carbon emissions, while regulating local climate. On top of that, the evaporation from just one tree can cool its surrounding area more efficiently than an astounding ten air conditioners the size of an average room.

All this goes to show that woodlands really are a kind of magic. So, as Reima turns 75, we continue to encourage kids and adults around the globe to fall in love with the forest. Or, as Inu says, enjoy a place where “Children can explore in peace and sink their hands into the soil, even if their clothes do get dirty!”

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