Monday, March 7, 2011

Parent's Top Ten List - #2

Last week we took a brief detour in our count down of the 2011 Parent’s Top Ten List to discuss a different topic, entitlement. Our annual Parent's Top Ten list, which is available here, is meant to be printed and posted on the fridge or somewhere visible to serve as a high-level guide to keeping your home peaceful. It can be your GPS (Guide for Parenting with Sensitivity). We are up to #2, our next-to-the-top suggestion for 2011, and it is, “Do something outdoors with your family on a regular basis to keep everyone connected with nature.”

Taking country drives was something my family did when we were growing up. If we passed a farm, we would pull off the road and watch the cows graze or the horses play. My mother enjoyed making flower arrangements, and she would find interesting things growing by the road to create simple arrangements that meant something beyond their beauty because we had spotted the components and picked them with her. Each drive was a day of fresh air and discovery.

One of the needs we all have is to experiment and explore, and getting out in nature is a wonderful way to explore. Connecting with nature is vital for children, and Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, says that many children today are increasingly disconnected from nature. Not only do children need that connection, but Louv says that nature needs our children, who are the next stewards of the Earth. A 2002 British study found that eight-year-olds identify Pokémon characters more easily than otters, beetles and oak trees. Family adventures in nature can change that.

Your children can learn to read maps and navigate the family to your destination. A fun outdoor adventure that involves navigation is geocaching, a high-tech treasure hunt played using a GPS device. According to, “The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share your experiences online. Geocaching is enjoyed by people from all age groups, with a strong sense of community and support for the environment.”

A trip to the beach can spark your child’s interest in shells or sea life. You can visit nurseries and botanical gardens. Growing your own vegetables gets you outdoors and also fills your table. You can plant a traditional garden or create a simple garden in pots on your front steps. Visiting “U-Pick” sites or markets for your produce is a fun outdoor activity with many lessons for your children and a delicious payoff.

Have a regular outdoor adventure with your family. No child will forget his connection with nature.

To hear this as a podcast, click here.

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