We live in an increasingly technological world. Our children (all of us actually) are spending more and more time indoors interacting with “screens” and less and less time outdoors engaging the natural world.
Today we experience fewer primary sensory experiences (touching, smelling, hearing, seeing, listening to the natural world, the world in it’s natural state) than at any time in human history. Terms such as nature deficit disorder and attention restoration theory & nature have become part of the health and wellness conversation!
The science on the health benefits of nature time is becoming undeniable. Research is demonstrating that even small amounts of time in nature can decrease stress, improve mood, enhance immunity, improve cognition, imagination and creativity, foster healthy development, promote healthy vision, and increase focus and attention.
It’s really simple. We all need to put down our devices and get outdoors!!! (Finish reading this first and then put it down and get outdoors!)
Here’s my list of 10 ideas and resources for re-connecting your family to nature.
First and foremost, teach by example! Develop a personal daily practice of spending time outdoors. A good place to start is to match your personal screen time with equal amounts of time outdoors. Sound impossible? Begin by reducing screen time and increasing outdoor time.
Take walks (alone and with the family) around the neighborhood. Develop rituals along the way. Look for birds and listen for birdsong. See how many you can identify. Purchase or download a good local bird guide.
Create nature discovery hunts in your yard, neighborhood, or park. See how many plants, insects, trees, animals you can discover. It is amazing how many “weeds” can be discovered and are in fact wild flowers! Don’t know what they are? Learning what you’ve discovered is half the fun.
Plant something. Anything. If you are space limited plant a window box garden or create a miniature indoor greenhouse. Have more space? A vegetable garden, butterfly garden, or any garden using native plants is a wonderful nature experience. Finally, volunteer with local organization that plants trees or work restoring habitat in your area.
Spend time at the water’s edge or in the water. Ocean, river, creek, pond, bay — all will do. Go there at different times of the year and see and experience mother nature in all her seasons.
Get outdoors barefoot. Today’s modern child is shoed from an early age and children and adults alike rarely spends time outdoors barefoot. Research is showing that the benefits far outweigh any risks, especially in toddlers and young children.
Need a transition period? Bring the technology (your phone or camera) with you and begin a simple nature photography practice. Dedicate some time each day to photographing or filming nature. See what you can “discover” while looking for beautiful natural treasures to photograph.
Locate and attend events and performances that are happening outdoors in your area. Parks and botanical gardens frequently have festivals, concerts, and special events that happen outdoors. Support and attend your local gardens and parks on a regular basis as well.
One of my personal favorites, befriend a tree! Spend time with your tree friend as often as possible. Notice how it changes throughout the year and as the years pass! Sit with it. Hang out under it. Hug it! Talk to it! Learn from it!!!
Join and support organizations such as Sierra Club’s Inspiring Connection Outdoors ICO Program. They have programs throughout the country bringing local communities together to explore and experience the outdoors. Also check out the Children & Nature Network. The Children & Nature Network is connecting all children, their families and communities to nature through innovative ideas, evidence-based resources and tools, broad-based collaboration and support of grassroots leadership.
I welcome you to share your ideas and add to this list!!!
Especially share local organizations and resources that are doing the good work and getting children and individuals of all ages outdoors and interacting, protecting and falling in love again with nature!
Daniel J. Atchison-Nevel is the founder of NSEV Healing & Acupuncture. On Sunday, September 22, 2019, Dan will be conducting a Cultivation Retreat at Fern Forest Nature Center, one of South Florida’s most beautiful natural settings.