Wednesday, November 12, 2008

*Photo from US Government Photos

Maybe if we all got out in nature more often, we'd take better care of the planet.
This is a photo of the Grand Canyon, a place I have yet to visit though I've wanted to for years. In fact, I just got a book recently about a new book Last Child in the Woods, by Richard Louv. I haven't read the whole thing yet, but one part that struck me is the phrase he coined, "nature deficit disorder". He is referring mostly to the fact that children spend so little time in nature. They are "plugged in" much of the time to one electronic device or another and when they aren't, they're being shuttled to and from organized sports and other activities.
Honestly, I think he's on to something. I remember spending hours outside when I was a kid. My mother had four children, so sometimes she would kick us out of the house to get the cleaning done! I remember creating imaginary houses within the thick tree trunks, boats out of fallen logs, and magical kingdoms on the little stream that would freeze over in winter. I learned a lot about the woods just by being in them. That old, wet wood peels apart exactly like turkey in flakes and chunks, the smell and taste of clover, the way the leaves turned "inside out" before it rains.
I haven't gotten that far into the book yet, but I wonder if Louv talks at all about adult nature deficit disorder. Because I think that like many problems and bad habits which children inherit, it's normally the adults setting the stage. If more parents were to take their children into the woods rather than to a weekend matinee or afternoon at the arcade, their curiosity about the natural world would be sure to increase.
Parents may wonder though, what to DO with their kids in the woods, especially if their own parents never spent time showing them the wonders of the natural world. Here are a few suggestions:
1) Go geocaching. This is a sort of nature treasure hunt--geocachers "plant" caches in different locations. Seekers must find the cache using only a GPS.
2) Go for a hike. It doesn't have to be long and arduous. Listings of quickie hikes and easy trails should be listed on your state's forest parks and recreation website.
3) Have a picnic. So what if it's cold? Bundle up and build a campfire in your backyard. Spread some blankets around the fire and enjoy a yummy meal together.
4) Garden.
5) Explore your local state or local wildlife refuges. These have some great walking/snowshoeing trails and normally lake or river access for canoeing.
6) Buy a used telescope and explore the stars and galaxies together.
7) Walk the dog.
8) Go on a family walk and clean litter off the roadside as you do it (don't forget gloves!).
9) Go Letterboxing. Similar to geocaching, only you stamp a small log book instead of finding a cache. Requires no GPS.
These are just a few ideas, I'm sure you can come up with a lot more of your own. The important thing is just to try to get out there--even if it's once a week. My bet is that the fresh air, movement, and connection to nature will have you wanting more in no time.

1 comment:

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

I'm reading Last Child in the Woods right now too. I try to get my kids outside as much as possible, but our excuse is that we don't have our own yard. Also, I don't think it's safe to send my kids outside by themselves, and a lot of the day is taken up by my baby's naps when I feel I need to be indoors. As our society grows more and more urban, I bet this is a lot of parent's excuse. Maybe it's just that parents nowadays worry more, but it just doesn't seem safe anymore to leave your kids unattended.