When I moved to Colorado, it was largely due to my love of the outdoors. After spending ten years on the prairie in weather that was usually unfit to be outdoors, I craved the outdoors and sunshine more than anything I can remember. I read Bill Bryson’s book, A Walk in the Woods, shortly after my divorce and knew I had to change my life to focus on the things I loved.
I grew up in the country, I was always outside. I would hike to remote areas and lay a blanket on a large rock overlooking a draw and read my days away. I would wait for glimpses of animals that didn’t know I was there, does with fawns coming to the creek at the bottom of the draw, raccoon, porcupines and even snakes were all treats – rewards for my stillness. I learned things like how to use witching sticks, how to use bow and arrow, what plants were NEVER to be used for wiping your tushie when you pee in the woods.
My kids were city kids. (If you can call anyplace in South Dakota a city). They didn’t get to fish, camp and hike as a way of life – those were just annoying things I drug them to do when they could be doing better things, like hanging out at the mall. They grew up with unlimited cable and internet, cell phones, facebook. Their extracurricular activities were gymnastics, cheer-leading, cross country running. They hung out at malls, drank lattes (I still don’t understand that, I am a black coffee girl myself), wore phony glasses and bright scarves. Dragging them outside was like pulling teeth, a cruel punishment from their mother. They had great counter points when I argued with them to come camping – “You said to be active, we participate in sports. You said to be smart, we read books. Where does getting dirty and being hot fit into our development?”. (Yes, they really talked that way – little snots!) Even moving them to CO where it’s still cool to be outdoorsy had little affect on them, they just hate being outside.
I am determined to make a bigger impact on my niece, nephew, and grand baby than I did my kids, so I am finding ways to merge the technology world with the natural one. Geocaching may be my best shot here. With geocaching games, you have different scavenger hunts to find natural things. There is a treasure at the end of the hunt, and you can take the treasure as long as you leave something of equal value. This looks like wicked fun, and I plan to take my niece (8) on an adventure some weekend when it’s warm and dry. I am sure most of you know what Geocaching is, but if not, here is a link.
Another way I plan to use technology to manipulate the children to engage in nature is through blogging. Not typical blogging, like Xanga or WordPress, but more visual blogs such as Tumblr or even PinInterest – whatever is “cool” when they are old enough to engage them. We will take pictures of natural things (plants, animals, scenery) and write short, slightly educational blogs about them (Need to be tricky here, can’t let them know they are learning) and share them with their friends. The gratification they will receive from feedback, comments, etc may encourage them to want to keep updating and adding content. I am hopefully that I can use their need for instant feedback and praise as a tool to keep them interested, but I may be mistaken, I will keep you posted!
People spend 90 percent of their lives indoors now. 90 percent. Fresh air, natural light, all the benefits that come from being outside are being artificially duplicated to our indoor environments so people don’t feel it’s important to be outside anymore. If people watch the National Geographic channel, why would they need to go outside and see real animals for themselves? When my kids were growing up, the terrible statistic was that kids were spending less than 4 hours a week outside. Today that number is 40 minutes a week. Why would kids go outside if we never do? We spend time in gyms, supermarkets, offices and spending less time gardening and spending time exercising outside.
Being in nature (nature as the non-human world, in this instance) engages imagination, stimulates your brain, makes people more engaged and more peaceful at the same time. The real world is not always the technology world. Watching a lion catch a deer on TV leaves little impact, but running across a deer corpse on the trail leaves a much more real, palpable experience. Watching fox babies on YouTube and running into a den of them are two entirely different experiences. An hour of fresh air a day (true fresh air, not filter systems that pumps fresh air into the vents) helps us sleep, helps our digestion, blood pressure, immune system and increases happiness. One hour can do all of that. Sunshine (please use sunscreen) is shown to do all that fresh air does in addition to fighting cancer, obesity, diabetes. Walking and hiking in the woods rarely feels like “working out” or exercise (even though it’s fantastic exercise), it feels like exploring, experiencing, enjoying an adventure of sorts. It’s stimulating all of our senses and often our bodies forget that they are working because we are taken in by the sights, smells and sounds that are different than our indoor environment.
Personally, I find being outdoors in a remote, natural environment humbling and awe inspiring. It’s nice to be in an environment that isn’t completely under my control. It’s peaceful to disengage from the beeps and flashing lights and ringing phones and submerge myself in the sounds not created by other people. I can think more clearly, my hope and optimism soars and I am less annoyed by the world when I return. But that’s just me.
Here is a pic my daughter sent me of herself and my grand-daughter, Atlas, this morning I am not going to tell her of my scheming to get the baby outside yet, so don’t tattle on me!
Have any of you used geocaching with your kids? Do you have any other tips for me regarding how to make my indoors family go outside?