Do We Need to Give Kids More Opportunities to Enjoy Nature?

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I‘ve been blessed to live in areas surrounded by nature. During my younger years in Wisconsin, I would shoot mice by the creek during winter, pick wild strawberries in late spring, collect bird eggs for my collection during summer, and pick wild hickory nuts and hazelnuts in autumn. We built new tree houses every year, and “dined” over our bonfires along the creek.  

Being outdoors was simply the best. It didn’t hurt that I grew up in a time when parents could allow their children to spend a day in the woods with complete peace of mind. Safety was never an issue in that innocent time and place (neither were there Xbox, Playstations, iPhones, YouTube, or any other video gadgets to keep us indoors for hours on end, for that matter). We were free to just be kids—to get dirty, run and play unhindered, and truly experience the magnificence that is the great outdoors.

My wish for kids today is that they would all have those same opportunities I did as a child. Nature has a way of bringing things into perspective, no matter how old we are. It reminds us all that the world doesn’t revolve our lives and our schedules. Rather, we are a very small part of a vast, wonderful world that is beckoning to be discovered by us.

I hope you’ll consider dedicating at least one day a week to experiencing nature with your kid. For the young ones, go on sensory walks. Encourage them to touch leaves, rocks, and plants. Let them pick out twigs and stones to take home.

For older children and teens, encourage them to sit outside in a place they consider beautiful and journal. If they are not writers, hand them some art supplies to capture the images on paper, or a camera or mobile phone to take pictures. Encourage them to ride their bikes, play hide and seek, or catch an exhilarating game of capture the flag with their friends, or maybe even yourself! Not only will it be good for their physical health, it will also be beneficial to their soul – and maybe even your soul as well!

Dennis Trittin is President and CEO of LifeSmart Publishing, author of What I Wish I Knew at 18: Life Lessons for the Road Ahead and co-author of Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World. With world-class leadership experience, passionate advocacy for the next generation, and acclaimed resources and speaking engagements on the topics of leadership, life skills, and parenting, Dennis inspires and equips young people and those who guide them.  You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter!

Image Credit: VAstateparksstaff via Flickr