Get outside and get into nature

Tomorrow, April 22, we celebrate Earth Day. As you renew your commitment to care for our planet, keep in mind that the absolutely greatest contribution we can make toward Earth’s stewardship is to raise children who care.

Children raised in a caring family environments have greater capacity for empathy not only toward themselves and others but their communities and world. Children tend to care more deeply about what their parents hold and express as family values. To nurture their interest in nature, children need a parent or another caring adult to take them outdoors and share in their curiosity and wonder.

It’s not enough to say you care for the planet — you got to live it and model it to your children.

So, get the whole family out into nature. Plant a tree. Pick up litter in the park. Construct bee, bat, and bird houses. Participate in citizen scientist pollinator or toad counts. Watch nature documentaries. Visit your local natural history museum. Go camping. Turn over a log to discover insects underneath. Go to the zoo. Watch the birds and squirrels. Take a walk. Go cloud-watching. Pick wildflowers. Wade in a creek.

Need more inspiration? Children who get unstructured playtime outside are healthier, earn better grades, and receive other benefits — learn more in this video from the Nature Kids Institute:

Why Kids Need Nature” from Kenny Ballentine on Vimeo.

Reflecting on Earth Day through my family’s every day green choices

divya singh 1I hope you were able to reflect on ways to make changes in how you live during this year’s Earth Day on April 22. Having a baby has made me so conscious of every day choices I make for myself and my soon-to-be 4-year-old daughter. Parenting is a learning experience, and when I look back, indeed every day has been nothing short of a live classroom.

Before I was expecting, a local Earth Day event had really got me thinking of the power each of us holds to change things.

My family’s health has become my top-most priority, and eating well is a big part of that. We get farm-fresh milk from a local dairy, fresh vegetables from another farm and freshly baked goodies from local bakers. The rest, we cook at home most of the time.

We had always recycled, but we still generated some waste. That waste multiplied manifold when we had our baby and made me look for ways to reduce diaper waste. I found cloth diapers. We also have a compost bin in the backyard that helps us eliminate most of our remaining waste. The compost is used for our fruit trees and vegetable beds.

The joy on our little one’s face when she plucks her own fruits and vegetables to eat is so immense that it keeps me going with gardening no matter how busy life may be.

When we started solids, my daughter started daycare around the same time. I struggled with the reality of balancing life and work with the option of serving prepackaged food versus preparing fresh food. Eventually — between breast milk, some freshly prepared food and some store-bought jars — we found our balance.

Soon after our daughter’s first birthday, we bought our first house. The house came with a yard that was landscaped with native species of shrubs and trees. It attracted some rare species of birds that I have gotten to see thanks to our little one who encourages me to spend time outside with her, rain or shine. The freedom from having to water the yard even in the driest of Oregon summers is such an advantage.

Every new parent knows the amount of stuff we accumulate when babies arrive in our lives. Trying to fit all the stuff in an apartment when we had our baby made me very conscious of how much “baby stuff” I was going to get, either as gifts or buy on my own. I did not stop myself from buying something if I really liked it, but I had to make a conscious effort to say “no” to a lot of gifts. Moving into a house hasn’t changed much in terms of lack of storage space, and I continue to use stuff from close friends and pass down stuff to new families as soon as I get the opportunity.

Celebrating birthdays has been another occasion where I have put my green choices to great use. I call these “gift exchange” parties and encourage friends to bring used or recycled toys. I send home potted seedlings as return gifts that our friends’ children can plant to enjoy their fruits.

As a mother wanting to raise a like-minded daughter, I am already starting to reap the benefits of sowing these “seeds” of conscious living. My daughter saves her toys to give away to other little ones, and whenever the kitchen tap or shower faucet has running water flowing with full force, my little one reminds me to use it just as much as I need and to not waste too much water in the shower.

I hope you have been inspired to make some small every day changes in how you live to benefit the health of our Earth.

Simplicity Parenting” with Kim John Payne

Kim John PaynePurchase this one-of-a-kind API audio recording for only $9 and learn how to:
– Define family values for our children
– Put limits in place to guide our children to our family values
– Develop a multi-faceted foundation of connection with your children, being careful that connection isn’t based on a sole factor
– Understand the power of simplicity in reducing stress and boosting connection, creativity and relaxation among both parents and children within a family
– And so much more!

Editor’s pick: Reconnecting our kids with nature for healthy development

“It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement, the greatest source of visual beauty, the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.” ~ David Attenborough, English broadcaster and naturalistGirl Dress Field

Today is Earth Day. We are reminded of the need to protect our Earth with all its wonders and beautiful resources: the majestic glaciers, magnificent oceans, captivating tall trees, vast grasslands, and all precious life forms. Today, Attachment Parenting International (API) observes the significance of our Earth and nature as a valuable resource for our children’s well-being.

Connecting with nature — spending time outdoors — provides children with the opportunity to freely engage in exploration, observation, creativity, and physical activity. It promotes the development of physical, emotional, and spiritual balance children need to flourish.

With the prevalence of electronic devices, overscheduling and the increasingly limited availability of natural settings, children nowadays have little opportunities to spend time outdoors and in nature. Television, the internet and social media are at their fingertips: They spend many hours being connected, but yet disconnected — from their natural environment.

In his 2005 book, Last Child in the Woods, journalist Richard Louv coined the term “Nature Deficit Disorder,” referring to the negative effects resulting from children spending less time outdoors. In his groundbreaking work, Louv sheds light on this important issue that deeply affects our children.

In this Parent & Child magazine article, Louv explains why nature is vital for children: As human beings, our connection to nature is biologically innate. Nature deficit disorder is not a medical condition but a description of the human costs of alienation from nature. This alienation damages children, and some of the consequent problems are depression, obesity, and attention problems.

In his Orion magazine article, “Leave No Child Inside,” Louv discusses the need behind the movement to reconnect kids with nature: “As one suburban fifth grader put it to me, in what has become the signature epigram of the children-and-nature movement: ‘I like to play indoors better ’cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are.’”

Due to the movement, there is growing dialogue on the subject of children and nature among educators, health care providers, recreation companies, residential developers, urban planners, conservation agencies, academics, and others.

There is also a growing body of research on the problem of children’s disconnection from the natural environment, and the benefits of increased connection. Some of the benefits discussed in this Natural Learning Initiative piece are:

  • Supports creativity and problem solving
  • Enhances cognitive abilities
  • Improves social relations
  • Improves self-discipline
  • Reduces stress
  • Reduces Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms
  • Increases physical activity.

Children’s immersion and connection with nature also has profound implications on future conservation and the direction of the environmental movement. If, as a society, we would truly understand the benefits nature has to offer to our children, we would be more inclined to re-evaluate our relationship with nature and the urgency to protect our beautiful Earth.

Additional API Resources for Earth Day

Larry CohenPlayful Parenting with Larry Cohen,” author of Playful Parenting, The Art of Roughhousing, and Picnic on a Cloud, in this API Teleseminar — now just $9 for your audio recording!

Nature’s toys” from AP Month 2011

More professional insight from The Attached Family online magazine:

Conscious Living with Lisa Reagan,” executive editor of Kindred Media & Community, cofounder of Families for Conscious Living, and member of API’s Resource Advisory Council

Parenting for a Sustainable World: Cultivating a Reverence for Life” by Lysa Parker, cofounder of API and coauthor of Attached at the Heart

And personal stories from other APtly Said blog posts:

Teaching environmental responsibility

Nature therapy

Fall party

Hiking with children