Earth Day everyday?

Earth day blog

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir

But how do we make sure that they are getting out into nature and having the experiences that we had?

There has been a lot of recent conversation around Free Range Kids lately. Part of the Free Rangeness is giving kids the freedoms to explore and step more into nature.

It seems that with the growth of technology many kids are not experiencing the outdoor adventures that we did as kids because they are inside on the computer or watching tv.

So how do we get them off the couch and outside?

PARENT!

We are the ones to set the limits. We also set the examples. Want to get your kids to go out and climb trees? Explore with them when they are young and as they grow they will return to the outdoors you have taught them to love and appreciate.

For a few years I worried about how much one of my kids was getting outside. Sure, he played outdoor sports but after that seemed to come home and lie around.  I made sure that he was outside doing something each day. There were many days he was not happy with me as I turned down his requests to play video games. However, now that he is more independent and can drive he and his friends love to go out and explore state parks.

He still loves to climb and explore.

Our kids are products of our parenting and the world around us. If we show them how wonderful the outdoors can be we are giving them a gift that will last a lifetime.

Last Child in the Woods

Welcome to our guest blogger, Beth, who currently runs the Anoka-Hennepin Parent Resource Center(PRC). Beth LOVES books and puts a great spin on one of the PRC’s top picks.
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Memory, not known for its reliability, is increasingly tricky as time passes.  That being acknowledged, I recall my childhood—many decades ago—spent largely outdoors.

Our neighborhood provided plenty of playmates and our lifestyle gave kids ample free time (no homework in the early grades) so play we did—hopscotch, jacks, charades, various versions of tag, croquet, tennis, and games we made up.  We biked, ice-skated and roller-skated (my roller skates clamped onto my shoes), built snow forts, swung, and swam.

And we took hikes, sometimes sending scouts ahead to determine our route and making notes of our observations (leaves still on oak trees in November).

In the summer, we played until dark and—as we gained a bit of maturity—sometimes later.  Stargazing was a special treat.

Richard Louv wrote a fascinating book, Last Child in the Woods, about the shift in how children play—since that long-ago time when I was a child and even in the last generation—and how that shift impacts kids and the world we live in.

It’s not only that kids spend less time playing outside, but also that more of their outdoor time is supervised and structured or the child is “containerized” in a stroller or car seat.  (Would Louv consider the red wagon I used with my kids a “container”?)

Not surprisingly, kids who spend most of their time indoors have been found to be less active than more outdoorsy kids.  Less activity is linked to higher rates of childhood obesity and diabetes.

Louv makes the case that a young life spent mostly indoors leads to what he terms “Nature-Deficit Disorder”.  He maintains that there are physical, mental, and spiritual consequences to nature-deficit.  He cites evidence that Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADD) symptoms are reduced by time spent in a natural setting.

He worries that as people become less familiar with—and therefore distanced from—nature, that interest in preserving natural areas will disappear.  I fret when public wooded areas are increasingly groomed as if to keep the woods at a safe distance.

Louv has a good number of ideas for promoting appreciation and preservation of nature, including “greenroofs,” covered with vegetation, and creating animal corridors to join existing parks and preserves.  This is an important book and a great read.