While technology is speeding ahead at breakneck speed, the human race is going backwards in some respects.
Think about it. The open spaces and natural foods and hobbies our ancestors enjoyed have been replaced with solid walls, preservative filled foods and hobbies that often include sitting in front of some kind of screen.
Sure, our lives are more comfortable. We are living longer and I daresay with less physical pain than our ancestors endured.
However, the incidence of mental health problems such as depression is skyrocketing, as are physical health issues such as obesity. And many of us are out of touch with the world that hosts us.
The very need to write an article about reconnecting kids with nature shows just how far we have slumped.
It’s not all bad news, though.
OUTDOOR PLAY CAN MAKE KIDS THRIVE
Those of us who choose to live a mainstream life, instead of opting out for a ‘greener’ lifestyle, have a constant battle to ensure we stay in tune with nature.
After all, we are fighting the distractions technology provides, as well as a world that applauds working long hours and achieving ‘success’, more than stopping long enough to smell the roses.
With all these demands keeping us busy, it is hard enough for us to spend quiet time appreciating nature, let alone pass that skill onto our kids.
This is compounded by fear for our child’s safety. The perceived hazards of outdoor play include the dangers of the sun and skin cancer, bumps and bruises, germs, and catching a cold.
The fact is that a little sunshine is a good thing. Increasing Vitamin D levels by allowing outdoor play can help prevent bone problems later in life as well as health issues such as heart disease and diabetes.
Outdoor play can even help prevent short-sightedness.
As for the bumps and scrapes – these are an important part of learning to cope in the adult world. Read How to Burst the Bubble and Embrace the Scrapes.
And the germs? Research has proved the germs that come from playing in mud can not only help us physically but with mental health issues as well.
While an absolute necessity for the well-being of children, outdoor play is not the only way to make kids thrive using nature.
You can help provide an atmosphere that will encourage a love and appreciation for nature that will serve them all their lives. It may even serve humanity if it results in an urge for them to help save the world.
MAKE KIDS THRIVE BY BRINGING NATURE INDOORS
There are so many ways you can bring nature indoors to foster a love and appreciation for all of its gifts.
Have them plant some seeds in an indoor pot and watch the miracle of life as the seeds germinate and grow.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to sprinkle seeds onto cotton wool. Water and wait. The cotton wool can be fashioned into all kinds of fun shapes and using cress seeds will provide fast results, as long as you keep them watered and in sunlight.
Have a collection of sticks, rocks, leaves, and flowers on hand to use for sensory play as well as creative endeavours.
You can use these items to make fun games, such as tic tac toe, using sticks for the lines, and rocks for the play pieces.
Check out my post How to turn Sticks into Wonderful and Useful Objects for more creative ideas.
Having a pet goes a long way towards helping kids gain a love of nature. Even a little goldfish tank can inspire this kind of love.
Turn nature finds into art by creating a nature weaving or Playing with Patterns in Nature.
You can also use nature finds to create pretty and educational artworks, such as this butterfly collage.
Introduce children to the fun of flower pressing, or even flower pounding to create beautiful art.
Help them experiment with making natural paints.
HOW RECYCLING CAN MAKE KIDS THRIVE
It is vital to lead by example and follow it up with great communication.
When children are learning to brush their teeth, explain the importance of turning off the tap water while brushing. This helps preserve the world’s most precious commodity – water. You can find more water-saving tips in How a Thirst to Save Could Change the World.
Where possible, buy things that do not come with excess packaging. Plastic accounts for more than 30 per cent of all the world’s land rubbish and 80 per cent of rubbish dumped in the world’s oceans. It is responsible for killing more than a million seabirds and 100,000 mammals every year.
These figures are staggering and depressing. However, in the interests of keeping people aware of the issue, they are continuously quoted.
Children, being the information sponges that they are, hear this information and become frightened and full of doom.
If we don’t follow it up with practical solutions and hope, we risk raising a generation who are depressed and unmotivated.
Sadly, it is not always convenient, sometimes even impossible, to avoid plastic packaging. That is when recycling comes into its own.
You can take this a step further and even give the children a sense of achievement and empowerment by encouraging them to create wonderful things using recyclables.
A plastic bottle can become a sandcastle. Cardboard boxes and tubes can be transformed into a sweet desk caddie. A tin can becomes a famous movie character. The ideas are limitless and give children the skills and inspiration to come up with their own innovations later in life. Innovations that could save the world.
GET SOME HELP TO MAKE KIDS THRIVE
While the education system touches on these things, time constraints and academic demands mean those efforts need to be backed up elsewhere.
If you are time-poor and stressed by mess, consider enrolling your child in a group that encourages nature appreciation.
Wacky Workshops is an arts and crafts program for children living in the Lower Blue Mountains area. It prides itself on promoting a love and respect for nature while encouraging creativity and imagination.
Follow the Wacky Workshops Facebook page for more inspiration.
Happy crafting and have a gleeful week, Tamuria.