“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” –John Muir
There is a deep truth in this quote that nature is crucial to our well being. Combine nature with family activities and you have the perfect recipe for healthy and happy families.
The main reason I am so involved in the outdoors is to inspire other human beings to get off the couch and out the door. Spending time with your entire family in the outdoors can enhance and improve every area of your life.
The most recent camping trip I went on with my son is one we will both remember for a lifetime. I took my little guy with me to help set up camp for AOA– (My Non-Profit organization that takes kids camping in the Back Country of the AZ White Mountains). He had a wonderful experience fishing, spotting wildlife, and going for a boat ride on Big Lake.
There are several issues/factors related to youth not spending as much time outdoors as in previous times.
A recent study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation has found that teens spend more than 7 1/2 hours a day consumed in some type of media, including — watching TV, listening to music, surfing the Web, social networking, and playing video games.
As a busy parent, I know the temptation all too well to let my kids immerse themselves in technology while I get stuff done around the house. There are times where the hours go by and I think, “Oh my word- these kids need to get off the electronics”! The solution of course is going to be personal to each family, but this is why planning and then participating in outdoor activities is so crucial. When my kids are outdoors, 9 times out of 10, they completely forget about their electronics. They are enthralled with nature’s toys and exploring in new and different ways.
Time Outdoors is Limited
While more than four-fifths (83%) of parents questioned thought it was important their children learned to use technology, nine out of 10 would prefer them to spend their childhood outdoors, and develop a connection with nature.
Almost all (96%) of the 1,001 parents with children aged between four and 14 quizzed thought it was important their children had a connection with nature and thought playing outdoors was important for their development, according to the National Trust research.
The research found, on average, children were playing outside for just over four hours a week, compared to 8.2 hours a week when the adults questioned were children.
Another study points out that approximately 17 percent of children and teenagers (ages 2 to 19) were obese from 2011 to 2012, and 31.8 percent were either overweight or obese. More than one-in-12 children (8.4 percent) are obese in early childhood (2- to 5-year-olds). By ages 12 to 19, 20.5 percent of children and adolescents were obese.
Today, about one in three American kids and teens is overweight or obese. The prevalence of obesity in children more than tripled from 1971 to 2011. With good reason, childhood obesity is now the No. 1 health concern among parents in the United States, topping drug abuse and smoking.
Among children today, obesity is causing a broad range of health problems that previously weren’t seen until adulthood. These include high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and elevated blood cholesterol levels. There are also psychological effects: Obese children are more prone to low self-esteem, negative body image and depression.
As a busy parent, I know how difficult it can be to get away. It really is as simple though as choosing a date, putting it down in writing, and then planning your trip from there. From experience, if I don’t write it down in a calendar, then it doesn’t happen.
As the parent, you need to set the standards and be the example for your kids. Your kids can’t do the planning and drive to the activity. One experience in the outdoors can change a child’s life forever and can strengthen the bonds of your family.
So in summary- here is a final thought: Fast forward 20 years. One of your kids, all grown up, is having a cup of coffee with a friend.
Do you think they will be reminiscing about all of the TV they watched or the times they spent in the outdoors with your family? Speaking from experience, growing up in a family that was always in nature, these were the best times of my life.
For more information on what Richard Louv describes as Nature Deficit Disorder, read Last Child in the Woods.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this article and how your family spends time together in the great outdoors.
Enjoy Getting Outdoors!