Healing the broken bond between our young and nature is in our self-interest, not only because asthetics or justice demand it, but also because our mental, physical, and spiritual health depend on it.
author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder
I don't know about you, but I don't want my children to just get through life, I want them to flourish. Interacting with nature is one way to help make that happen. From personal experience, I have seen the power of nature in my family and in my involvment as an occupational therapist. I truly believe something is built into all of us that longs for the outdoors. It is therapeutic. It provides a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of life, a place to nourish your senses, a place to be active, and a place that invokes a sense of wonder.
Here is a little vignette from my family:
Years ago we had just spent a week at a family camp in Vermont. Imagine being a child able to explore and experience 1000 acres of the Great North Woods Forest. Moose hunts at dusk, swimming in a lake, kayaking, and hiking in the woods were the activities of the day. No fear, no structure - just freedom to roam. My kids were 13, 11, 7, 5 and 1. They had just enjoyed a week of this freedom and exploration with no TV access and no phones. Not long before this, my parents had treated us to a week at Disney World and the Disney Cruise. When asked which one they preferred, they all resoundingly said, "Vermont!" What a strong testimony! That week we discovered something as a family. We discovered that time in nature is life-giving- that being surrounded by beauty, unfettered by distractions and emboldened by freedom is unique and it brought us closer together as a family.
We can’t always escape to Vermont, but I've discovered we can spend time in nature that is around us.
Sadly, children are spending less and less time outdoors, both at home and at school. This profoundly affects their well-being. Growing bodies of evidence show that being in nature is essential to health and childhood development. Exposure to nature plays a role in a child’s mental, physical and spiritual growth. Poor eyesight, obesity, ADHD, anxiety and sensory problems are just of few of the detrimental effects that are linked to decreased time spent outside. On the other hand, positive benefits of time in nature include increased creativity, opportunities for improved social skills, and improved academic performance - to name a few.
As a mother of seven, I have seen the powerful interplay of nature in my own children. I delight in the way they uniquely benefit from the outdoors. For some of them, they love the adventure that nature affords. For others, they relish its beauty. For others still, they find the outdoors a therapeutic haven, where they can simply “be”, without entanglements. Experiencing nature together as a family has been essential in laying a foundation for nature appreciation and it has bonded us together. Hiking, going to fun playgrounds, and working in the garden are just a few of the ways we have made outdoors a priority in our family. Don’t get me wrong….you don’t have to climb mountains or take up bird watching to enjoy nature. It can be as simple as having a picnic in your backyard or growing some flowers in a pot by your front door. How children respond to nature is a result of how they are exposed to it at a young age. Being intentional about outdoor experiences with young children can impact their future tremendously.
My passion for the outdoors has become greater now that I am an occupational therapist. Because of my training, I understand all the underlying skills that children gain from outdoor play. I see the therapeutic value of nature. Sensory input from nature is invaluable. Understanding the importance of nature exposure in a new and profound way and fueled by insight into the evidence-based knowledge, has given me a strong desire to educate and advocate for children and families to get connected to the outdoors.
In future blog posts, I will help readers:
Will you join me as we better ourselves, our families and our communities by experiencing nature together
You don’t have to go to Disneyland, nature is just a step outside.
Hi! I'm Ann - mother of seven, grandmother of two and occupational therapist. My mission is to provide the support families need to raise thriving children and to help you build a family environment that supports healthy development and a pathway to success.
Great blogs to check out:
Rain or Shine Mamma
Children & Nature Network
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