Have you ever noticed that if your children or grandchildren are grouchy, you take them outdoors and they almost immediately relax and start to enjoy themselves? This is ‘biophilia’ – the theory that by nature, human beings are naturally drawn to nature and natural things.
Whereas most of us grew up exploring our outdoor surroundings, today’s kids are being brought up with ‘nature deficit disorder’ where they are kept indoors for fear of danger, abduction, injury – and where they spend far more time in front of a screen than they do building dens or playing in streams.
It’s no wonder that children’s mental health is on the decline – surely the two correspond?! So what can be done to counteract this childhood travesty?
Make the most of your free time. In today’s world, both parents often work and this can leave little time for outdoor exploration and adventure such as walks and camping trips. However, it doesn’t have to be much – even walking to school, heading out to the park, taking the dog out – or even playing in the garden – will all help to feed the need for the great outdoors. If you have more time, of course, then planning in camping trips or walks in national parks, forests or beside beaches is and ideal (and affordable) way to spend more time outside with your whole family. You may be exhausted on evenings and weekends but we promise, if you ALL get outdoors and enjoy nature, you’ll feel the benefits for everybody’s mental and physical health.
Join a forest school group or outdoor playgroup.Take the play outside – there are many groups now where you can sign up with like-minded families and spend dedicated time in the great outdoors come rain or shine. Just search online for one near you – and if you can’t find one, set one up yourself! The one we attend is in a local woodland and involves plenty of fun activities such as fire building and cooking, den building, and of course jumping in muddy puddles.
Join the National Trust’s campaign to get children closer to nature with ’50 Things To Do Before You’re 11 3/4′. With 50 free or cheap activities all based outdoors, you’re sure to find some inspiration close to home.