Friday, November 27, 2009

Kids Need Nature

Experience and explore the great outdoors with your child 

— it's good for them!

By Sherri Russell

Whether you grew up in a suburb, on a farm, or in a big city, you probably spent a lot of time playing outside, getting dirty, and coming home happy. Maybe you watched ants making anthills in your backyard, climbed trees in the park, or simply lay in the grass contemplating the drifting clouds. Unfortunately, young children today do not have as many direct experiences with nature, and it's taking a toll.

Playing outside is good for kids.  It sparks their imagination.  Little Danny is one kid who truly LOVES the outdoors.  In fact he loves the outdoors so much that he is obsessed with the idea of playing outdoors, having camp fires, fishing and exploring.  Danny lives in Eastern Michigan in a residential area where access to nature is limited and camp fires are prohibited by local ordinances.  Danny’s parents remember how they used to play, and because of this reason, they often plan trips to Hess Lake Rentals in Newaygo Michigan to give Danny and his brothers the opportunity to get outside and have camp fires, explore and fish to provide the similar childhood experiences for their kids as they once had. 

Each time Danny discovers that he is going to come back to Hess Lake Rentals in Newaygo Mi for a weekend, he gets overwhelmed with excitement and immediately starts collecting as much paper products as possible to prepare for a camp fire.  This very special boy absolutely loves to build camp fires and will spend hours upon hours collecting all the sticks and debris in the yard and local woods to burn, he likes to watch the fire flames dance around.  If he is not working on a fabulous fire, Danny is usually fishing hard for catfish or carp and he likes to use corn or worms as bait.

Research suggests that a connection to nature is biologically innate; as humans, we have an affinity for the natural world. When children spend most of their time indoors, they miss out. Problems associated with alienation from nature include familiar maladies: depression, obesity, and attention deficit disorder. Kids who have direct access to nature are better learners. Exposure to nature has been shown to reduce stress and increase attention spans.

When a child is out in nature, all the senses get activated. He is immersed in something bigger than himself, rather than focusing narrowly on one thing, such as a computer screen. He's seeing, hearing, touching, even tasting. Out in nature, a child's brain has the chance to rejuvenate, so the next time he has to focus and pay attention, perhaps in school, he'll do better.

But even if kids don't have any of the specific problems mentioned above, kids who don't get out much lack the sense of wonder that only nature can provide.

The best thing any parent can do is to be enthusiastic about nature themselves.  Nature is good for everyone's mental health. Nature isn't the problem; it's the solution.

In the case of little Danny, his parents told me that being out in nature has helped him tremendously in regards to personal and mental growth.


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