Have you noticed that children are playing and exploring the outdoors less and less these days? According to the American Camp Association, "Today’s youth are experiencing less free and unstructured outdoor playtime in nature than previous generations — devoting an average of just four to seven minutes a day in unstructured play time versus an average of seven and one-half hours each day in front of electronic media." What a shocking statistic!
There are so many reasons why children should spend ample time outdoors each day in a variety of weather conditions. Breathing fresh outdoor air is so good for children (and grownups). Once they are outdoors, they begin running, jumping and stretching their limbs. After a time, they start to investigate their surroundings. They find bugs, spiderwebs, flowers and new mushrooms to look at.
One easy way to encourage outdoor time is nature study. Doing nature study can be as simple as going on a nature walk to keeping a nature journal and conducting science experiments with what is found on a walk. We are very fortunate to live in a small city surrounded by mountains. Nature is a major attraction to our living environment. I realize it may not be so easy for those who live in large urban cities or dangerous neighborhoods. However, even a neighborhood walk or urbanized park can produce great finds.
Being outdoors helps children to realize that there is so much going on in the world besides media and having the latest gadget. Nature is always filled with new changes and things to see. There is plenty of excitement right outside the back door. Watching ants working can become an engrossing activity that is humbling. Who can complain about sweeping the floor or rotating the laundry after watching an ant drag a piece of food larger than itself for 30 minutes?
I love to watch my children wander in the woods within sight of a marked trail (I am a city girl born and bred)! Getting out into the woods away from all people noise is calming. I love the hustle and bustle of a city, but being in nature is a great rest to the eardrums. Sometimes we just stand still and close our eyes and talk about what we hear. I remember once as a child being at Indian camp and walking arm in arm blindfolded at night across a field. We heard so much that we wouldn't have noticed if we had been giggling and playing with our flashlights.
I hope you have the chance to get out into nature this fall and spend some time with your loved ones.