It seems like everywhere I go I see young children glued to a screen. In the car, at the baseball game, waiting for their food to arrive at the restaurant. Of course, often the adults are just as guilty – myself included. Likely, people are unaware of how much time they are spending on their phones – after all, in the past, a phone was just a phone. Have you thought about all the uses for a phone today? Now we use our phones for watching movies, driving directions, gaming a career and more.
So What’s the Big Deal?
Gone are the days of children leaving the house at dawn and returning at dusk covered in dirt with windblown hair. Some of my most unforgettable childhood memories involve my time spent outside in nature with my siblings, friends and cousins. I fondly remember my childhood activities of picking strawberries, gathering eggs, playing hide and seek, swimming in the horse tanks, building a go kart (multiple times!!), riding bikes, and climbing in trees.
There is an amazing opportunity for learning and development – it is just outside the front door, all you have to do is open it! The best part is, the only thing it will cost you is your time. The Children and Nature Network has developed some amazing resources about the wide-range of health benefits we receive simple by going outside. For example, spending time in the bright sunlight is healthy for our bodies (vitamin D) and our eyes (reduces nearsightedness). Spending time in nature can help children focus their attention, improve academic performance and decreases problem behaviors. There are ample opportunities when we spend time outside for decision-making, increased scientific knowledge and even building a sense of community as children learn about their neighborhood, town and beyond!
Even young children enjoy being outside. Consider going on a nature walk. Look for bugs; new flowers; colored rocks etc. Since we are lucky enough to live where the stars are visible, with older children stargaze in the evening or very early morning. With your kids, locate a few key constellations and orient to those. Other things you can do include cloud spotting, bird-watching, and more. Keep a nature notebook field guides for birds and stars, binoculars, and a camera. Use your imagination and get input from your children for additional activities.