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Kids and Nature
August 13, 2018

This is my second favorite time of year.

(Pictures from my yard.)

While bird song has all but disappeared, there is still some activity as fledged (with parents), and juveniles birds continue to visit.

What makes this time of year special is all of the other stuff.

The sounds of insects.

Vegetable gardens are at peak performance.

Right now, so are my flower gardens.

Not only are blooms everywhere, so are the pollinators.

It is nice to see a few more Monarch butterflies flitting about.

Bees and Hoverflies are buzzing about.

Hummingbirds are busy nectaring, and catching tiny insects.

Life abounds.

I love it.

This is a bit of an emotional time as well.

My granddaughter is heading off to kindergarten in another week.

Cheyenne is my little buddy.

The past couple of years, she would go to the beach with Karen and me while other kids were in school.

Watching her play in the sand, help grandpa feed the ducks, and more important ...........

She would help me look for my belly button that fell off in Lake Michigan (grandma didn't sew it on good enough).

Yes, I have a belly hole, she has a nice button.

After the beach, it was ice cream time.

A tradition.

Cheyenne is also my one hope to pass on my love for nature and such.

Since she was Three years old, she has helped my plant flowers.

I have taught her to not be afraid of insects and worms, while her mom is a 'no shame', screaming woman.

It is okay to get wet and dirty.

To run around bare footed.

To pet Bumblebees.

I love that little girl.

On the flip side is my friend and neighbor.

He is the 'Felix Unger' type.

Maybe toss in a little 'Adrian Munk' (it's a jungle out there).

Nothing I haven't said to him before.

Anyway, this guy won't walk outside with something on his feet.

If he does work in the yard, he wears surgical or some other type of rubber gloves.

Cooties, Germs, they are out there.

Me, I'm his Oscar Madison.

I walk around bare foot, I get my hands dirty every time I'm in the yard.

I've been known to drink from the garden hose.

And I'm still alive to talk about it.

He also seems to catch every cold and flu bug that passes through.

Now why am I bringing this stuff up?

Because it is a jungle out there, and we need to be armed.

This is why I am writing on 'Kids and Nature' this week.


Kids need Nature.

As 'Richard Louv' notes in his book "Last Child in the Woods", our technology-addicted culture is making it harder for children to spend time outside, so they are missing out on its many benefits.

(Great Book.)

But we can make the choice as parents to cultivate time outside as a priority for our kids.

With that, here are five compelling reasons that children need to get outside into nature at an early age.

Evidence continues to mount.

Research confirms what many of us know intuitively.

Children who spend time in nature early on in life are much more motivated to get outside when they are older.

They recoup the many physical, mental and emotional health benefits as adults ( why many of us seek vacation, or holiday in the country).

So clearly, it's really important to start as early as possible.

if you weren't Blessed to spend time in nature when you were little, it's never too late to start getting outside and enjoying the benefits now.

And if you have children, even better

You can enjoy the healing properties of nature together as a family.

Here are but a few benefits.

Nature and outdoors improves children's resilience to stress.

Nature reduces the impact of life's stresses on children.

It also helps them deal with hard times when those feelings of stress seem unavoidable.

It can even be a view of nature to help reduce anxiety for those who are highly stressed.

The greater the amount of nature exposure, the greater the benefits for stress-relief.

It reduces attention disorders, depression and anxiety.

Research has found that spending time in nature can help children with attention deficit disorder, and ADHD.

And living close to green space has also been shown to lower anxiety and depression in younger children.

Nature undoubtedly helps us tune into the present moment, and practice mindfulness organically, without even having to think of it in those terms.

It supports children's creativity and cognitive functioning.

Research shows that children are more creative when exposed to nature (schools and society teach conformity).

Furthermore, this research has also highlighted that daily exposure to nature increases children's ability to focus and concentrate and therefore enhances their cognitive abilities (including problem solving).

Lower stress, decreased anxiety, and improved mental function...

The reasons for Nature keep going on and on.

Something we already knew.

Nature increases their physical activity and thereby helps to reduce obesity.

According to a recent review, children's time spent playing outdoors is associated with increased physical activity.

This makes sense, intuitively, right?

Getting outside in nature means children are not hunched over a laptop, or in front of the TV.

No gaming devices.

Instead, they will be running, jumping, digging, climbing and so on.

And the best part is that they won't even realize they are being physically active, meaning that exercise will likely become a priority for them, simply through habit! Nature encourages exploration, play and movement.

These positive qualities should be the words we use to describe exercise.

Not to mention all the benefits of 'Grounding' as well.

It helps to develop their respect and responsibility for our planet.

Again, research has found that if children have regular contact with nature during early childhood, they will more likely grow up with a love and respect for nature and the environment.

Childhood playing in "wild" nature (discovery, camping, hiking or walking in the woods), has a positive effect on both adult environmental attitudes and also their behaviors.

So, if you are the parent, grandparent, teacher, etc. of a small child, here are just a few ideas to try out which will benefit everyone involved:

Encourage your child to grow plants or seasonal vegetables.

You could also celebrate the seasons, and rhythms of nature with your child.

Go for regular family picnics, visits to the park or a beach or for walks in woodlands.

Learn more about nature with your child to encourage their interest in and desire to be outside.

You could go on nature trails with your child.

Help your child to get creative with natural found objects .

Going outdoors to find the "natural objects" is a big part of the fun.

Rock hunting, you could also suggest they take nature photographs or make sketches and start a scrapbook.

It's never too late to benefit from nature. So let's all get outside more and have some fun.

Encourage kids to be responsible, and to give back.

Remember when you were a kid?

Well, now part of you still can be.

If I could say this, I would tell people to get off their fannies, butt, keister, and get outside.

However, if I said that some might be offended, so I'm not going to say it :-)

Lead by example.

Inspire curiosity by being curious yourself.

The most important part of prioritizing the natural world is to give your child the gift of enthusiasm.

Your excitement is contagious to your little ones, and when you show awe in nature, your children follow suit.

Take the position of a learner — be open to learning new things.

After all, no one can possibly be an expert on everything.

Encourage questions you don’t know the answer to:

"Let’s find out together,” is a wonderful way to get the ball rolling.

Be open to a mutual adventure and allow your curious inner child to come out while you explore nature with your children.

It is human nature for boys to explore, climb trees, to catch frogs, to conquer.

A scraped knee and yes, a cast on a broken arm, becomes a badge of honor.

Little girls need to make mud pies and get dirty, maybe chase a butterfly.

It is even okay if every child eats a little dirt.

Do you know of a pond, or water source where frogs and turtles live?

Approach the water and watch the critters disappear.

Plop, plop, dink, splash.

Now sit still for a few moments and watch as the frogs and turtles begin to pop up.

Maybe you can make a game and count one by one as they reappear.

It's okay if you don't know a leopard frog from a tree frog, this becomes a learning moment for everyone.

Let your children know it is okay to get dirty, to pick up a worm, to respect wildlife, not be fearful of everything.

(Now it may be a good thing if you do brush up on your wildlife knowledge for such moments. Wouldn't you know it, a learning moment for you as well.)

Children are naturally curious (some more than others), and will ask questions when they need to, no need to force the issue.

Not to mention, they are making memories and spending time with one of the most important people in their lives.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless.

"We are not to imagine or suppose, but to discover, what nature does or may be made to do."

Frances Bacon

God created everything and he called it good. He also wants us to explore his creations and to admire our surroundings. So much so, we can even learn from them.

“Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?

“And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.

Jesus Christ, Matthew 6:26 and 28,29

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors,

We borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb.

A Blessed week to you .

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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