Is the exploration of the natural world just a pleasant way to pass the golden hours of childhood or is there something deeper? I am sure there is something much deeper, something lasting and significant. – Rachel Carson, Sense of Wonder (pg. 100)
Today’s children spend more time than any previous generation of children indoors playing video games, using electronics, and exploring social media outlets.As parents, did you enjoy playing outside with your siblings friends, or neighbors? Why wouldn’t you want your children to enjoy the rite of passage of playing outside and in the woods that you yourself experienced and enjoyed? Are your children learning positive traits from video games, or developing leadership skills through electronics? How does it affect your child’s self-image and self-confidence when they are constantly being compared to other people on social media and crave “likes” in order to be satisfied? Keeping up with social media and constantly engaging in technology affects children’s emotional, social, and cognitive development. There are clear benefits (emotional, social, and cognitive) from spending time engaging in nature in fields, forests, and other outdoor regions – so why don’t you encourage your child to go outside and discover the magic of playing in the woods! If children never get to experience the wonders of the natural world, then how can we expect them to grow into environmentally responsible citizens of the world? If children don’t enjoy nature then why would they respect or encourage measures to preserve and conserve it? There are immediate, individual benefits of children playing outside, as well as future, global benefits of developing ecological stewards. I urge you to foster your children’s appreciation for and exposure to nature by getting them outside everyday. Let’s pause for a moment…. Thus far you’ve been tracking with me, agreeing that your children should be exploring more nature than they’re currently doing. However, I imagine that you are putting this “lovely idea” on the back burner because your kids have homework, sports practices, music rehearsals and social obligations that prevents them from playing outside as often as you’d like. Is that correct? If your children were selected to attend an elite school that would advance their intellect you would support their attendance, regardless of their current extracurricular schedule. So why, now, are you letting excuses such as prior obligations hinder your children’s social, emotional, and intellectual development that comes free of charge when they play in the natural world? If your child needs therapy, you’d drive them into town. So what is preventing you from keeping your children’s necessary “therapeutic appointments” with nature? Simplify and figure out what is most important for your children and the world at large. The answer is right in your backyard.