I’m sure I’ve confessed this here before but as much as I love beauty and fashion, I’m really a nature girl at heart. I mean, sure, I’ll put on lip gloss to head outside but I’ll also put on good hiking shoes and the right gear for the occasion.
I started college as a potential astronomy major (too much physics) and ended up a biology major. While most of my peers were focused on pre-med courses, I focused my studies on classes like limnology (freshwater science), herpetology (the study of reptiles and amphibians), and tree ecology, where I learned I have a knack for identifying trees.
I fell in love with the outdoors as a kid and as an adult I’m now able to understand the things I love about the outdoors. Birds have names, as do trees and frogs and flowers. And I have a general understanding about ecosystems and the environment.
But not every kid starts out as a nature lover and you can’t always turn them into one. So I’ve often questioned how to get my son away from the screen and out in the sunshine. And I’ve figured out one key thing.
Get out there with him.
It’s no secret that more and more people are suffering the effects of a vitamin D deficiency because we simply don’t spend enough time outside anymore. We’re not getting the sun exposure that would normally give us the vitamin D that we need. It’s a problem for many of us.
So, as much as we want our kids to naturally go outside, we have to realize they aren’t growing up in the same world we did.
When I was growing up, video games didn’t take up much of our time. Atari was a new discovery and, let’s face it, those pixels could only hold your attention for so long. We loved watching TV but the shows we loved to watch were on from 3pm to 4pm after school and on Saturday mornings. We had nothing else to do. We went a little stir crazy so we went outside, either by our own choice or our parents.
My son is faced with a different world. Not only does he have the distractions of on-demand TV, but he also has access to a computer, an iPad, a Wii U, and a Nintendo 3DS. With so many choices of entertainment, it’s easy for kids to decide not to go outside. And if you are a conscientious parent and have discovered that this isn’t a good choice for them, then you’ve also discovered that getting them to agree to a good choice can result in huffing, puffing, whining, and even yelling.
It took me a while to figure out that I couldn’t reason with him. I couldn’t explain why it’s important to get outside and appreciate the world around him. I had to show him, and not in the forceful parent kind of way.
For example, in the evening, I’d take the dog for a walk and tell him he had to go with me. He couldn’t stay home alone. He might complain but then as it became a routine, he’d open up as we walked. We’d talk about the stars and the wheat grass and the sounds of the frogs. There’s a small stream near my house with a gentle waterfall and the other day, out of the blue, he said, “Mommy, this would be a nice place to come when you are mad or sad or just want to meditate.”
My little buddha.
Today, we went to the park together. We walked the trails and as he was busy looking down at the rocks, I told him to remember to also look up. That there’s always something going on around us. We walked by the water, hiked a short trail, collected a few things, and took lots of pictures along the way.
In fact, photography is just one area that we bond in. We both love to take pictures and I find that sometimes letting him bring his digital camera is enough to keep him interested in what we’re seeing. I like to think of it as bringing technology into the outside world. It helps get him engaged in what he’s seeing and feel connected to our venture.
That’s just one of the many ways we use technology to get us outside and have a good time but I’m learning that it doesn’t have to be one or the other. And maybe you are too.
I’m excited to be working as a contributor for the NWF (National Wildlife Federation) Be Out There e-book due out later this summer. I’ll be specifically writing about balancing screen time and green time and how you can use technology to get your kids (and YOU) outside and spending time together.
If you have any cool gadgets, technology, apps, or even gear that gets you and your kids outside, I’d love to hear about them! Leave me a comment, share a blog post you’ve written, tag me on Twitter. Just let me know your thoughts and I’ll gladly include you in my section of the e-book!
Want to learn more about this e-book project sponsored by The Motherhood and NWF? Take a look at some of the other fabulous blogger-authors that will also be contributing and head over to their sites to offer up your suggestions as well!