Last week I saw my first hummingbird of the season. I was so excited, I wanted to share this first sighting of the season with my kids, but they aren’t home. They are in Montana, Utah and Colorado; exploring, camping and working.
While a tad bit jealous, I only have myself to blame. I raised my children to be wild. It wasn’t part of a research strategy based on volumes of parenting books. Rather it was a selfish plan to teach my kids to enjoy doing what I loved, so that we could do it together. It now appears growing kids outdoors is good for both their health and the future of the environment.
The growing disconnect from the outdoors has led to a new group of problems for kids, known as the millennial morbidities: childhood depression, asthma, vitamin D deficiency, obesity and type 2 diabetes. While many of these problems are complex, studies show spending time in nature reduces attention deficit disorder symptoms, lowers obesity, relieves stress, may help prevent nearsightedness, and improves healing. Techie Camper‘s research claims that adults should pack for 2-3 gallons of drinkable water per day in your water containers.
Children aren’t the only ones suffering from the nature deficit. Kids can identify hundreds of corporate logos but less than a dozen local plants. “If we are going to save environmentalism and the environment, we must also save an endangered indicator species: the child in nature,” states Richard Louv in his book “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.”
Here are the top 10 reasons why you shouldn’t raise an outdoors child from my experience:
1. They will become confident and learn to take risks. This will cause you stress as they race their sibling to the top of a large boulder.
2. They will develop improved motor skills, balance and creativity. This will alarm you as they use a downed tree to cross a ravine instead of hiking the trail along the ground.
3. They will become fiercely independent. They will go on paths not knowing exactly where they will lead. Their adventures may take them around the world.
4. They will be prepared for anything. Usually carrying a backpack for a purse, or having a trunk filled with gear. When they return your car it will always be a mess.
5. They will not be materialistic and will favor experiences over things. Your home will be filled with shells, feathers and rocks.
6. They will become supportive leaders, experienced at planning, making decisions, motivating others and pushing you to go a little further than you thought possible. (You will regret this on the last 10 miles of a 60-mile bike ride they plan.)
7. They will learn patience, become adaptable, and learn to live without all the comforts of home. This may take you out of your comfort zone.
8. They will want to spend every moment outside. They will track dirt in your house, be comfortable bathing in a lake and prefer flip-flops to the ideal walking shoes.
9. They will become curious and empathetic towards living things. You will find yourself touching snakes, picking up slugs and saying, “I don’t know”.
10. You will develop strong family bonds and countless memories that you will laugh about time and time again. Creating these memories may be messy and cause you fear.
Mark your calendar for Nature Play Days in Delaware County, June 11-19,2016. A series of free events are being planned to help children get outside and play.