Raising Nature-Loving Kids and Why It’s Awesome
Living in the world we do, there’s no shortage of eco-anxiety. For a substantial number of parents, the antidote appears to be raising children who have a healthy relationship with the world around them. And I must admit I am one of those parents.
Raising nature-loving kids has been one of my priorities since I became a mother to two boys. I had witnessed my fair share of humans destroying mother Gaia. And I was determined to teach my boys better. Still, despite my personal willingness to make sacrifices, I knew I didn’t want my sons to see eco-friendly living as a chore. Instead, I wanted it to become a rewarding habit they would thoroughly enjoy.
Why Kids Benefit from Being in Nature
There’s no question about the positive ways nature impacts human health. As our original habitat, a natural setting offers a host of advantages that will help kids maintain a high level of physical and mental wellbeing.
Perhaps the biggest perk of going outside, for kids and adults alike, is the ability to synthesize natural vitamin D from the Sun. A micronutrient that is best known for ensuring the health of muscles and bones, vitamin D also helps maintain immune function. Furthermore, it’s a critical component of a healthy circadian rhythm, the regulator of the human sleep-wake cycle.
Of course, it’s not just health that nature-dwelling improves. Being in a natural setting has been proven to improve cognitive function (namely working memory) and helped lower stress levels. Moreover, a walk in a park can significantly boost creativity and regulate mood.
A more practical perk of spending time outside for kids is a much lower amount of time spent using smartphones and electronic devices. Seeing that screens are such a ubiquitous part of living in the 21st century, I find it important to eliminate them from downtime as much as possible.
Finally, there is one last advantage of an outdoor-oriented lifestyle for kids. Namely, it’s the fact that playing in nature allows children to develop their motor skills.
As you can see, the science-backed proof suggesting that kids do need to spend more time outside is quite impressive. However, it’s not the main reason why I think raising nature-loving kids is awesome.
In our household, going outside isn’t just a way to maintain our wellbeing. Each outing is a valuable bonding opportunity, no matter how big or small.
It doesn’t matter whether we’re visiting the nearby park, are going on an overnight camping trip, or are all working together in our tiny family garden. Spending time outside is a form of precious family time when we get to relax and enjoy each other’s company. We can come up with new games, create fun challenges, or even play explorers and try and solve all of Mother Earth’s fascinating mysteries.
As a parent, I also look at this time as an educational opportunity.
Being in nature allows me to teach my children not just about the local flora and fauna. It also helps me explain how (and why) they can lead a more sustainable life.
Getting Kids to Be Excited About Nature
Now, the one tricky thing about getting today’s children to be excited about nature is that they have such a wide variety of indoor activities at their disposal. After all, there’s not much about a weekend hike that can get a 12-year old excited as much as free reign over a tablet with YouTube on it does.
However, such obstacles should not prevent parents from trying. What I’ve found was that kids do fall in love with nature – as long as that love is nurtured through structured and unstructured playtime.
For my two boys, what I found works best is to create mini-quests and adventures that would provide context for the time we spend outside. For example, during the fall, we go outside to collect leaves to use as brown matter in our composting bin. If we’re on a beach, we’ll look for seashells and use them to decorate sandcastles. Or, we’ll don our snorkeling equipment and try to identify as many species of fish as we can.
Sometimes, we don’t need as much context for a fun experience. Our natural escapades will consist of a cycling adventure followed by a picnic. Alternatively, we’ll have a backyard camping trip made complete with roasted marshmallows and fairy lights.
The Biggest Value of Time Spent in Nature
As a parent, I cannot but stop and think about what raising nature-loving kids means to me. Yes, it’s a way for them to learn about the world they live in and develop habits that, hopefully, will become essential in their lives.
But more than that, our love for nature is a way for our family to bond. Regardless of whether we’re going to a national park or the nearest trail, being outside, being together in these settings helps our family forge strong relationships. And my hope is that our children will adopt the values I’m teaching them and nurture them throughout their adult lives.
Who knows, perhaps one day, they’ll find that a love for mother Earth makes for a wonderful opportunity to become close with their own kids.
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