Discovering the wonders of mud puddles.
Recently I formalized the family nature outings I have been organizing since my kindergartner was just learning to walk. I am calling the family nature club Mudpie Magic. This afternoon was our first ‘official’ outing. I had 3 families and 6 children participate in an hour and a half of hiking and creative play. We also played hide and seek and read a book among the trees.
It has always been important for me to get out into nature. It restores me; I find my physical and mental state to be much improved after breathing fresh air and viewing natural scenery. I find the same to be true for my children.
What we all know to be true (whether we have thought about it and admit it or not) – that being outside is good for us in many ways – has drawn recent attention from a variety of researchers. What they have been able to quantify is that playing outside is good for our kids; it will help them sleep better, lose weight, improve academic performance and be more creative and happy people. The Children and Nature Network ( www.childrenandnature.org ) is an amazing resource for more specific data on this topic. Other experts include Richard Louv ( www.richardlouv.com) and David Sobel with Antioch University.
Rediscovering our own sense of wonder through our child’s excitement over finding tadpoles or looking up into a clear, blue sky and chasing leaves falling from the trees can be freeing. While it is so enjoyable to be outdoors with my own family I want to share the joy of this experience with other families. Children who grow up with valuable experiences in nature will be more responsible adults, better stewards of our resources. We all need fresh air, clean water and healthy soil. Having a quality outdoor experience with children is an investment in our future.
I have had people ask me, ‘How do you play outside with your kids?” My reply is always the same, “The first step is opening the door. Let the kids do the rest.” If you are interested in starting a family nature group in your area look at the Children and Nature Network (link above), the National Wildlife Federation’s Be Out There Campaign (http://www.nwf.org/Get-Outside/Be-Out-There.aspx) and US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Let’s Go Outside (http://www.fws.gov/letsgooutside/). These are wonderful places to start. From there you will find many groups all over the country (and the world) interested in doing the same thing, all sharing ideas and resources. Now open the door, let the kids (and yourself!) go outside!