Most of us have childhood memories playing in puddles, rolling in the grass, or just guessing the shapes of the clouds above us. Sadly, as technology allows children to find virtual ways to have fun, they are not going out as much as we used to. Researchers insist that this has become a problem to their mental health.
Lack of nature has proven to be a cause of declining physical and mental health. Nature defecit disorder is a reality, and it is affecting the behavior development of children across the US. This disorder can be linked to frustration, aggravation, panic, anxiety, and fear of failure. Being around nature also creates a gateway for exercise.
Here are some ways to encourage children to enjoy nature and to get them outside:
Make Road Trips About Sight Seeing.
This means that you should limit the mobile device use they have access to during the rides. No tablets, DVD players, or cell phones, just the scenery outside of their window. Ask them questions about what they’re seeing, what they like, etc. If you engage them in conversation over the scene, their curiosity will grow!
Make time for unstructured outside play.
According to Kaiser Family Foundation studies, kids now spend about 45 hours indoors playing with electronic devices. This can easily be replaced by spending time walking around parks, going to playgrounds, swimming at a lake, or any other form of outdoor activity. It would maybe even be a good idea to take some time off from organized sports play to make a point to enjoy nature fully.
Make time outside a priority.
If you think of it as something to do leisurely, let’s face it, they will hardly see daylight. Instead, make it a point to spend a minimum amount of time outside a week. Make it an essential part of their day so that they can sense the importance.
Read to them about nature.
Not only will this give you bonding time with your children and keep them away from technology, but this will be a good way for them to learn about nature from an early start. Encourage them, inspire them with literature. The public library has good options like The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, etc.
Plant an indoor garden.
For those who live in the city and don’t have easy access to parks or outdoor recreational areas, consider planting your own little garden. Anything as simple as planting beans and peas, which grow fairly quickly, will teach children about the importance of growth and how nature can provide us with nutrients.
Learn about nature yourself.
Let’s face it, you don’t know the answers to everything, and your child does not need to think that you do. Instead, when he or she has a question about nature, admit you don’t know the answer and suggest you explore the possibilities together!
That’s it. It’s simple and a classic way to get them awed about the universe that we live in, not just our planet. Again, if you live in the city, this will still be a bit of a challenge with all of the lights, but it will be worth the drive. Perhaps if that is not a current option, take a visit to the local planetarium if there is one available. Then, whenever there is a time to head out, bring a blanket and a telescope and take a ride into the infinite.