We love being in nature. The beach, the creek, the rainforest, the park or even just our backyard. These are everyday experiences for our family, just enjoying the simplicity of being outside in our natural environment.
So how is that the majority of my children's generation are spending most of their time indoors, watching TV or playing video games or being ferried around to a variety of extra curricular activities that are structured and indoors?
It's interesting that we live in a world where children know more about the earth, but less about nature in their own backyard. This information made available through documentaries and the internet has sometimes taken the place of direct nature experiences. Some children may know all there is to know about groups of animals and what they eat etc, yet will probably not know what the name of the bird was they just heard fly overhead. I hear so many young children talk of tigers, elephants, lions or giraffes, which show that their information about these animals has come from TV or the computer.
We love learning about our native fauna, water dragons, snakes, birds, frogs, local sea creatures, flying foxes etc. We always get so excited if any new birds come to our backyard...we had galahs come and eat some seed that we left for them this week. I feel so grateful that my children LOVE these experiences as much as I do!
I know that I feel energised and refreshed everytime I step out into the great outdoors. I feel so grateful that we as a family always find the time for spontaneous nature adventures. The boys go off climbing trees or rocks with no restrictions, just complete trust in their ability to keep themselves safe and to know their own limits. I often over hear parents say to their children, "get down from there you will fall!" and sometimes they are only on something less than a metre high!
What is happening to these children that are being deprived of time in nature and restricted to only doing 'safe' activities?
Richard Louv's book 'Last Child in the Woods, Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder' links this separation from the natural world to many problems facing children today, including diminished use of the senses, attention problems, and increased emotional and physical diseases including childhood obesity and depression. He goes on to stress that play in nature is not leisure time, but crucial for our children's development as a balanced diet or a good night's sleep.
I watch how my children thrive in nature....catching tadpoles, building sand castles, surfing, bush walking, bird watching, playing in mud, walking our dogs to the park on dusk to watch the flying foxes flap over head, all of these seemingly fun activites are learning opportunities and valuable ones at that.
How do we expect our children to care and respect our earth, if they are not being shown her magic and wonder on a daily basis? We need to show them how beautiful and precious our planet is, so our children will want to do anything they can to help perserve our natural environment.
So all we need to really do is to get outside, enjoy nature and show our children that we are enthusiastic about protecting and preserving our environment. Once again let's all lead from example and show our children that being in nature benefits everyone.