Contributed by Sophia Sanchez
In our current lifestyle, younger generations are spending less time outdoors. It leads to two problems:
First, children lose out on nature’s contribution to their emotional and physical well-being leading to a nature deficit disorder.
Secondly, if children can’t understand and appreciate nature, they can hardly know to help protect it. Will our ecological champions dwindle away in the decades to come? Will we spiral into an unsustainable ecological mess?
People across the globe are trying to change this by greeningtheir lives and homes. This is nothing but trying to live sustainable lives in sync with nature. People are building green homes and using green transport. Interestingly many are exploring the idea of even dying green. It might seem like a fad, but it has gone deeper. People have started taking sustainable lifestyles seriously.
Let us talk about the most crucial part––greening our kids.
Our kids’ current needs
Kids need Vit-N (vitamin-nature). We need to educate and immerse our kids in activities that involve nature and the outdoors. Earlier generations spent time outdoors in nature as a matter of course.
In our quest to give our kids all the latest experiences, we lost sight of older good things and let it all change. Today they have a dramatic decrease in exposure to nature.
With urban living on the rise, families seem to spend more time indoors rather than outdoors. And so our young lack exposure to the sensory richness of nature. Even the most basic psychology textbooks emphasize the importance of physical play for a healthy sensory processing system.
The National Recreation and Park Association states in their report – Children today spend less time outdoors than any other generation, devoting only four to seven minutes to unstructured outdoor play per day while spending an average of seven and a half hours in front of electronic media.
We as a society need to be concerned about this Vit-N deficiency, so to speak. It affects the child’s well-being and affects our ability as a species to keep our planet healthy for future generations.
A child’s well-being can be judged by its physical, mental, emotional and social health. We can see a certain “detachment from nature” in kids. It could be a strong reason for many of the lacks in a growing child’s well-being. We provide them ‘comforts’ that we didn’t have, but we forget to provide kids access to outdoorsy spaces.
It’s time to take greening our kids seriously.
5 reasons for greening our kids
As we are an integral part of this ecosystem, it’s essential to get our kids to spend time in nature. Here are five reasons to greenour kids:
Kids suffer when they lead lives away from nature. Sensory disorders and disruptions become common.
While playing outside might sound simple, it’s where kids learn to adapt to terrain, weather, difficulties, sounds, textures, other creatures, etc. While climbing a tree, they learn to test branches to see if they can bear their weight.
Senses sharpen. Thirst and hunger follow vigorous physical play. Hunger cues get well-established in the brain. With outdoorsy play, children get used to things which are generally not found inside homes – soil, water, plant matter, insects, bright sunlight, animals, etc.
2. Kids learn about nature
Nature has a certain rhythm. The rhythm creates the space and time for creatures to go about their lives. Seasons change in rhythm. Food grown keeps changing with the seasons. Creatures have their young when there is plenty to eat.
Birds, butterflies and other insects seem to appear out of nowhere. Kids can sit and watch ants for a long time––the way ants can carry things that seem too big for them or the way many ants work together to carry something bigger.
Birds, dogs, cats, insects, their homes, their young, what they eat . . . outdoors time, makes kids naturally observant, patient, and intensely curious about their world. Most importantly, it prepares kids for the natural cycle of birth and loss.
3. Kids learn from nature
As they spend more time in nature, kids slowly understand the wealth that she offers free of cost, such as air and water.
After millennia of being on this planet, we still don’t know how to make water as easily as nature does.
Nature recycles everything. Plants and animals adapt. When the landscape changed, the penguin adapted from a bird to a swimming bird which could no longer fly.
An immobile tree sends forth its seeds in innumerable ways. Many creatures live a symbiotic existence. A bird can feast on the bugs on a cow, and a dung beetle feasts on the dung. All this helps kids understand problem-solving in real life.
4. They will understand their role in the ecosystem
As they grow, kids connect the dots and understand the interconnectedness everything in nature. If it rains, there will be plenty to eat and drink for all. But if people pump raw sewage into the river, a water source, people get sick from it.
Greening our kids doesn’t have be complicated.
Give them simple chores like watering plants and they comprehend the importance of doing their job. If they fail to do it, the plants die.
Give them chores of harvesting a few leaves from a basil plant for the pesto sauce and they understand that plucking out the entire plant destroys their source of fresh leaves. Just harvesting a few allows it to grow.
These simple task lead to an important life lesson: there is enough to go around, but not enough for carelessness or greed. Humans have to live in sync with other creatures on the planet.
5. They will protect nature better
As kids who have had good doses of Vit-N grow into adulthood, they will be equipped to become guardians of our ecosystem. If the young do not understand basic systems and cycles, many scientists worry about a future where the knowledge base will get completely eroded.
According to a recent paper, the best possible way to preserve our planet is to keep 50% of nature untouched. How do we do that, if we do not have knowledgeable guardians? Greening our kids is our duty to introduce them to the ways of our planet.
Not just in a classroom, but by taking them out into nature.
The future of sustainable living involves four things:
- Knowing our home
- Protecting it
- Bringing up green kids
- Making them aware of their responsibility towards protecting this home
“Every morsel of food, every sip of water, the air we breathe is the result of work done by other species. Nature gives us everything we need to survive,” says Enric Sala.
He has expressed the core truth of our existence on Earth. So greening our kids will prepare them for the future, when they can care for their own home and live in harmony with nature.
Start now. Step out into the great outdoors with your kids.
Author Bio: Sophia is a newbie online ESL/EFL instructor. She is a passionate educator andblogs about education on her personal blog. She found her true calling — teaching — while she was juggling writing and a 9-5 desk job. When Sophia is not busy earning a living, she volunteers as a social worker. Her active online presence demonstrates her strong belief in the power of networking.