By Kenny Peavy
With the exodus of throngs of kids running wildly in fields, climbing trees in the forests and roaming freely through neighbourhoods to the air conditioned, sterile comfort of malls and safe spaces free from the necessary challenges, risky play and scraped knees that used to define growing up has come another hurdle and barrier to the free range childhood of the days of yore.
That hurdle is an addictive and damaging wolf standing in plain sight. Disguised in the sheep’s clothing of endless fun, free games and the promised land of more social connection that ever we welcome the predator of our free time into our homes with swiping thumbs and addicted stares. The wolf is the ever pervasive hand phone and the deceptively innocuous sheep it is clothed in is endless connectivity to mindless entertainment and social media.
In many parts of the world children now spend a few minutes a day, measured in single digits, playing outside, while they spend upwards of 8, 10 and even 12 hours a day glued to their screens. Not only is this having numerous impacts on their physical health it also disconnects them from the natural world they would otherwise be exploring and discovering on a daily basis.
How do we leap over this hurdle and send the wolf back to its den?
How do we allow kids to reconnect with a wild childhood playing, discovering and learning outside?
As is with most things, the answer is deceptively simple yet seemingly difficult to do.
A few suggestions may help:
Take your kids for a Nature walk with no purpose, no objective, no particular aim. Just ramble around and see what you can see. Practice active observation and engage the sense. Ten minutes a day will suffice. More if you can! You’ll be amazed at the benefits to mind, body and spirit!
Find a stump, a shade tree, a stream bank or park bench. Write non-sensical lyrics, explore rhymes and rhythms you hear in the fields, sketch the nearest flower, capture the image of an intriguing insect. Take time to notice the small things. Do it often enough and you’ll start to notice things you never saw or heard before!
Make a list of things you might see in your local ecosystem. Go for a walk and check off how many you see in an afternoon. Even in the most seemingly barren neighbourhoods you’ll be amazed at what you find if you look close enough!
Climb a tree and just sit there for a while looking and listening. Feel the wind. Look at the world from a different perspective. What do you notice?
Flip over a log discover the microcosm of the soil ecosystem. Observe the ants, termites, spiders, worms and other organisms living on the decomposing tree fiber and imagine how they are all working in symphonic symbiosis to covert that log into soil that will sustain yet another generation of trees. And so the cycle goes on and on ad infinitum!
Plant a fruit tree or flower in your yard or in your home. Check it daily. Watch it grow. Record the lifecycle. Measure its growth. See how connected you feel to a plant you have helped bring to life!
And most importantly unplug, tune in, get out!
Unplug from your devices. Turn off your phone and leave it at home
Tune in to Nature. Engage the senses. Take notice of the small things. Smell the earthy soil, feel the cold water of muddy puddles, get caught in aesthetic arrest by a deep azure sky and it’s wispy cumulus companions lofty and floating around the heavens. Get carried away and intoxicated by Nature!
Get outside and play!
Play with no particular schedule, no purpose and welcome boredom to teach you for a while.
You’ll remember how you used to play unfettered, unrestricted and carefree and why that’s how it is supposed to be.
For more ideas on how to connect with Nature join us at https://web.facebook.com/groups/boxpeopleunboxed/.
Kenny Peavy is an environmentalist who has a memoir called Young Homeless Professional. He has co-authored a pioneering environmental education handbook, As if the Earth Matters, and recently, an illustrated book, The Box People , was re-released digitally to enable children, young people and their parents and educators anywhere in the world to use the book. He also created Waffle House Prophets: Poems Inspired by Sacred People and Places.
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