Your dirty stinky muddy kid…
…may grow up to love the Earth more than you could ever imagine! Do you remember the days when you raced home from school, grabbed a snack and headed straight for your bike, to the swing set, to join your best neighbor friends for a game of kick-ball? I do! I loved nothing more than to be outside…playing, exploring and feeling the grass between my toes. In fact, many of my most precious memories growing up involve nature in some way! It makes me smile when I recall and share stories of building a rock bridge across our creek, catching crawdads, riding my bike over the “dirt-trails” and the endless nights of summer playing dark-tag with my friends. So I ask you…will your children be able to tell such stories as adults? What stories will they tell?
Unfortunately, today’s children are lacking unstructured play time in nature. They are instead consumed with television, computers, cell phones etc – all things that do not allow them to really be one with their surroundings. Nature is so much more than just a little scenery that makes life pretty. Nature is in fact a learning experience that can inspire, relax and invigorate all of our senses. The connectedness with nature that a child can feel can have so many benefits including great exercise, self-esteem from learning to build a bridge, stress-reduction from rolling down a hill in the grass and so many other experiences that are becoming lost along the way.
“Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods ‘Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder‘ presents a compelling argument that children, and the rest of us for that matter, require regular contact with nature to maintain physical and emotional health. As Louv makes clear, the outdoors is as essential to a child’s health and well being as good nutrition and plenty of sleep.” http://www.ahealthyme.com/topic/brnaturedeficit
With the art of “play” diminishing and our children’s obesity rates increasing, many parents, educators and health practitioners are expressing concern and wondering how to make a change. It is my belief that the value of imaginative, explorative play in nature can have such a profound impact for our kids – that it is a great place to begin along with other healthy choices. And if I am wrong – which has happened once or twice 😉 at the very least…our kids are having fun! In other words – it’s worth a shot!
Teaching children to appreciate and enjoy the outdoors can be fun and easy to do right in your very own backyard or local community!
Plant: Plant a tree, flowers or veggies and watch them grow!
Camp: Set up a tent in your backyard. Don’t have one? Borrow from someone, check Craigslist or be on the look-out for one at a garage sale!
Bugs: Catch lightning bugs and “rollie pollies” as they are affectionately known in our home!
Hike: Whether at your local park or your neighborhood – hike around taking notice of rocks, animals, trees and flowers
Set up a net: Have a fun time with traditional games like volleyball and badminton
Go to the Zoo: Take an afternoon to pack up some fresh fruits and water bottles and visit the zoo animals
Make a Splash: Whether you get a little pool, use the hose, water balloons or sprinklers – have fun in the water! Don’t forget your sunscreen though – and on those rainy days…roll up your pants and run through the puddles!
Sports: Your children do not have to be involved in organized sports to learn how to play! Playing catch in the back yard can be just as enriching, swing a tennis racket, make your mini-golf game, shoot baskets.
Put some wheels on it: Whether you are riding a bike, a skooter or even roller-skates…wheels are FUN!
Picnic: Spread out an old blanket or sheet and sit outside together for lunch or dinner
Lemonade Stands: Help your kids make a sign and a little stand for them to sell lemonade to neighbors! Supervise as necessary but allow them the chance to feel independent.
Get a J-O-B: Okay, not a real one anyway. Help your children learn the value of hard work and effort by encouraging/assisting them with setting up a dog-walking business, pulling weeds or washing cars and bikes!
The list goes on and on as there are just so many amazing things that we can do outside to really benefit and enrich our lives. For more information on outdoor activities, family fitness has a great list of “22 Playful, Physical Outdoor Activities” as well as Disney Family that are great reads.
The Children and Nature Network (C&NN) has designated April as “Children and Nature Awareness Month” and guess who their founder is? None other than Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods. His organization is full of information and ideas!