Playing In The Dirt
We know that sitting around, as well as putting on weight, impairs kids in the long run. But now studies say that kids in touch with their natural world are healthier, perform better in school and have better self-images. They learn initiative and judgement. They use creative kinds of play.
Small fry in the scheme of things? Perhaps. American author and nature leader Richard Louv is convinced not.
So, what are some of the things that you can do to encourage the kids to get involved in the outdoors?
- Invite native flora and fauna into your life. Maintain a birdbath. Replace part of your lawn with native plants. Build a bat house.
- View nature as an antidote to stress. This benefit flows to kids as well as the adult that goes with them into nature. Children and parents feel better after spending time in the natural world - even if it's just their own backyard.
- Plant a garden. Plant a tree on Planet Ark's National Tree Day. Get involved in your local bushcare or coastcare group.
- Encourage your kids to go camping in the backyard. Buy them a tent or help them make a canvas tepee, and leave it up all summer.
- Be a cloudspotter; build a backyard weather station. No special shoes or drive to the soccer field is required for "clouding." A young person just needs a view of the sky (even if it's from a bedroom window) and a guidebook.
- Invent your own nature game. One mother's suggestion: "We help our kids pay attention during longer hikes by playing 'find ten critters' - mammals, birds, insects, reptiles, snails, other creatures. Finding a critter can also mean discovering footprints, mole holes, and other signs that an animal has passed by or lives there."