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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Bright Green: 5 Things The Great Outdoors Can Teach Our Kids


(CREDIT: kevygee (Flickr))

I consider it a priceless fortune that I had the chance to grow up with a bountiful love of nature. As a child, I loved to be outside so much that grass stains became a badge of honor and worth. I was always on the playground, deep in the woods or just playing games outside with my siblings and friends. My mother has often said that my "experimenting with mommy's makeup phase" was replaced by dressing up in layers of dirt! I favored twigs to bows and my favorite accessories were free hands to climb with! It gives me such joy to behold such a giddy love of nature blossoming in my own daughters.

The bubbly enthusiasm my fearless wildflowers have for nature has been so rewarding for them. They have grown up resourceful, resilient and hungry for adventure. Perhaps best of all, nature's ever-flowing source of wonder has nurtured a lively, playful curiosity that I know adulthood won't ever conquer. Nature has so much to show us and give us, especially for children. As parents, we can be nature's advocates every step of the way.

Here are five things that I believe the wonderful outdoors has to offer our children:

  1. Nature provides inspiration and reassurance: Nature provides an endless canvas and plenty of tools to instill creativity in your children. While of course I have a begrudging respect for all the fun to be had in a pile of paint, glitter and glue, there is just something so fresh and liberating about harvesting materials from outside. Crafting from nature's relics is a puzzle that unites art, growth and respect. Nature's beauty is a dance of perfect and imperfect, and I want my daughters to realize that everything in life can be cherished through the gritty flaws.

  2. Become more eco-friendly: My girls are blooming gardeners, ever eager to dig their hands in the soil and mother tiny seeds into big plants. I always urge them to treat the planet like family, and gardening is a delightful way to nurture this bond. Children can gain so much from this physical, emotional and mental hobby. Responsibility, curiosity, dedication and compassion are ripe for the picking! To be able to take part in the natural cycle and enjoy the fruits of their labor will spur within them respect for the earth and for themselves.

  3. There's more to life that the silver screen: It's completely undeniable - playing outside is much better for your children than sitting locked to electronics. The great outdoors beckons children to embark on adventures that delight and deepen all of their senses. Obstacles and scraped knees build character. They can invent their own fun while gaining awareness from nature's unrelenting cause and effect. Open air and sunlight will lift their imaginations like a kite!

  4. The joys of being active and free: We all know that the perks of exercise are plentiful. I earnestly believe that children should be swaddled by nature from the very beginning. The fresh air, warm sunshine, crisp rain, rolling fields and lively forests; these are all essential ingredients for a happy, energetic child! Everything about nature is an invitation to let loose and be active. With the freedom to play and explore, kids can grow into themselves strong and confident.

  5. Everything in the world is interconnected: Nature has infinite lessons to provide our children. One of the most profound is that everything and everyone is tightly and gloriously woven together. To acknowledge and embrace this connection is to become more compassionate and open-minded. We can show our children this infinite web through nature's ways; the cycle of rain, how bees and flowers need each other and how a squirrel's spacey memory gives birth to trees are just a few precious examples. This awareness can deepen and illuminate all of the relationships our children develop.

How has nature gifted your youth and adulthood? How can we ensure that our children enjoy all of the lush delights that nature has to offer? As parents, we can guide them and meet their curiosity and energy with enthusiasm.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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