I don’t know when it started. It used to be that everyone encouraged their kids to play outside. But sometime in the recent past it was deemed “dangerous” or “likely to cause illness” or some other load of bunk. Studies encourage parents today to let their kids pet animals and play in the dirt, that they’ll be healthier and happier if they do.
And yet, parents persist in keeping their kids in unnatural bubbles of sterility and containment.
What happens when kids don’t even connect with nature?
That will be a sad day, indeed.
More and more parents are reluctant to allow their children to play outside for fear of abduction or contracting an illness, or just plain getting dirty.
This is a problem.
Because playing outside helps children to develop their brains. I know, it is scientifically proven that some children actually do well in their chosen career if they play video games several hours a day. But how many of our children are going to be micro-surgeons?
The rest of those kids need to do some exploring, and preferably outside. Let kids pick up rocks and see what kind of life form resides underneath. What happens when you block the natural flow of water from a stream? By allowing children to experience nature, we give them the gift of understanding science at its nascent element.
What parents may not know is that children who experience nature as (ahem) naturally as possible, are the ones who will be more concerned about the world when they become adults.
If your child is transfixed with your iPad, then have them decide where they would like to visit. It might be a local state park, a national wildlife refuge or something similar. Then have them download all the possible wildlife they could possibly see at that place. In order to spot wildlife in nature, they will have to look up from that tablet and take a look at nature as raw as it is. Help them to see how they can identify various birds…by their call, by their coloring, by their nesting habits.
Smartphones can help kids categorize things that they see in nature and bring a sense of connection to their digital world with the one they experience firsthand.
Have your children explore an outdoor museum where they touch the tools aboriginal people may have used to make clothing or food. Have them try to start a fire with only the tools available in ancient times. Help them forge a connection with the past so they understand how important it is to save the earth for future generations.