As a culture we are spending less and less time outside as a whole. It is estimated that children in the US spend an average of 7.5 hours a day in front of a computer or tv screen. It is no wonder with numbers like this that obesity rates are skyrocketing, and children are being labeled left and right with ADD and depression. And the statistics are undoubtedly worse for adults.
For the first time in recent history, the current generation of children is projected to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. It’s time to make a change. There is no reason that any of us, young or old, shouldn’t be thriving each and every day.
Somehow each generation seems to loose more of their connection to nature. I feel that this is strongly reflected in the vast numbers of people suffering from stress, depression, and a general sense of unease with life.
A magical thing happens when we re-connect with nature, especially for children. We learn how to dream our world into being again. No video game, or tv show is going to exercise a child’s inner creativity like playing outside will.
Where Do I Start?
If you are looking for inspiration there are many wonderful websites online created by people with a great passion for getting children and adults back out into nature.
There are numerous people, like my beautiful friend Marghanita Hughes, who offer classes in their area. This is a great way for children to come together, make some new friends, and play in nature! This can be especially wonderful in the middle of the summer when you may be stuck at work, but your kids have a wide open schedule. Why let them waste away their day in front of a screen, when they can be out discovering all the wonder that nature holds! Marghanita has even put together a wonderful e-book filled with 40 nature based art projects that you can create with your child.
David Suzuki asks us to try out the 30×30 challenge. A challenge to spend 30 minutes a day outside for 30 days. What better inspiration to find all the green spaces around where you live, and explore each of them. Is there a park near by that you have never explored? Go spend half an hour there! I bet more often than not, you are going to be spending much more than a half hour outside each day! Some say it takes 21 days to form a new habit, and for this reason I feel that David Suzuki’s challenge is one that will change your life! Imagine having the new habit of spending some time each day out enjoying the beauty of your area.
The National Wildlife Federation offers some fun activities and ideas for things to do as a family with their Get Outside page. One of the greatest treasures that can be found when spending time outside is the wildlife that shares our surroundings. There are so many ways for children to experience wildlife. You can take simple steps like setting up a bird feeder in your back yard, and all kinds of beautiful birds will start to fill your yard. Or go on a hike in the mountains, you will be witness to all kinds of animals that you would not see near your home.
The Children & Nature Network offers a site in which you can find inspiration and connect with others in your area that are connecting with nature. Sometimes just being able to connect with others in your area can make all the difference in motivation to get out there and do something new.
Create Special Time
All too often we get wrapped up in the rush of life, and forget to make time as a family. Getting outside is a wonderful way to create special time with our whole family. It can help us step away from the projects, e-mails, messages, chores and bills that are nagging at us. Leave your cell phones at home, and pack up a special pic nick!
Or maybe you have an upcoming birthday to plan for. Why not choose some special outdoor venue. This could be a favorite park that you frequent, or a place that you have never had the chance to explore before!
Don’t let the daily grind take over your life. Let your kids teach you how to play again!
One of the greatest parts being out in nature is the Wonder that fills every niche! Re-discover this wonder with your children. Watch the expressions on their face as they turn over a stone to find a small kingdom of living creatures beneath it. What new insects can they discover by laying down in a flower bed? Do you remember this sense of wonder from your own childhood?
It’s time for us to teach our children and ourselves how to dream again! Get Outside!