Did you know – recent studies are showing that kids are losing touch with nature. Yet when children were given the opportunity to be out in nature all kinds of good things happened.
More JOY : who doesn’t want more of that! 🙂 Exploring a pond and watching all of the tiny life inside, or following a deer trail just to see where it goes or finding a bird’s nest. There is lots of enjoyment for kids in nature and for you too!
Better HEALTH : while there is no doubt that getting out and walking, cycling and scampering up a hill are all good forms of exercises, being in nature goes further than that – research is showing that connecting with nature is good for our mental as well as physical health. The vast majority of us live in urban settings so we deal with overstimulation from traffic, noise and other people. Spending time outside in nature leads to lower levels of aggression, less procrastination, better ability to solve problems and more general wellbeing.
Here are three great considerations for spending time outside with kids…
1. Fun : Forget your boring goal-oriented adult approach. Kids just want to have fun. So let them. Get sidetracked. “Waste” an hour finding frogs. The moment the fun stops… the whining starts. So that’s why this is consideration number one.
2. Let them be Wild : Gleefully throw out some of the normal rules we live by in civilized society. Kids adore dirt and cleanliness is a rather modern fetish anyways. If you aren’t getting dirty in nature, you’re probably doing something wrong. So let them climb, explore and yell. Because heck if you can’t go wild in the wilds, where can you?
3. Give your kids Responsibility : Let them choose the route, carry some of the water, let them wear shorts and getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. Let them make mistakes – and they will, but they will also learn to make meaningful decisions, screw-up and then re-evaluate.
Where is your family favourite outside space?
Here are my top three close-by nature spots that me and my hubby and my kids enjoy.
1. Wascana Trails – this is a super duper nature reserve on the way to Lumsden. It’s in a little valley that the wacana creek has carved out. There are tons and tons of trails through it – going up from the top of the valley and down to the creek below. There are lots of birds to find and watch. There is great spots of scampering and climbing up and down which my kids love. And there are lots of forested bits which are a welcome change to the prairies. If your kids are old enough to mountain bike, this is a great place for that as well. And just this Sunday, we saw a turtle sunning itself on a rock. So it’s great for a little bit of wildlife too.
2. White Butte – this is another great nature preserve East of the city, off the number 1# highway roughly just north of White City. This is a large area with lots of longer trails. Some are prairie trails, and others are wooded trails that take you through a birch tree area. In winter this is an awesome place to cross country ski. In spring, there are tons of puddles, and ponds and lots and lots ducks. Really it’s great all year around.
3. The Hidden Dock in Wascana Park : This is a great little find that we discovered during the Wings Over Wascana festival. You head down to the far side of McDonald hill (located at the end of McDonald St across from the Douglas Park track and field area). If you are feeling energetic climb up the hill (it’s one of the best views of the city) and then let your kids scamper down the other side. Otherwise you can just walk around it. Continue following the path on the other side of the hill along the lake’s edge… keep going for about 10-15 minutes and you’ll come to a marshy area with a dock. Bring a pail and a few little nets and then get down and explore. It’s awesome. Lots of cool water bugs and frogs and fish eggs.
My kids and two friends searching for tadpoles at the hidden dock in Wascana this spring. And friends are the corollary to fun. Add a friend to any nature adventure and the fun increases.
If you have other spots close by that you love, please share… I would love to hear about them! 🙂
Finally here are two awesome books to read on the subject.
Wild with Child: Adventures of Families in the Great Outdoors, by Jennifer Bove
Last Child in the Woods : Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv