Steeves/Trail Mix: Take your kids outside

Feeding wildlife is not normally recommended, but this mallard is apparently already tame, and that provides this child an opportunity to interact with nature and to see a duck up close—to realize they don
Feeding wildlife is not normally recommended, but this mallard is apparently already tame, and that provides this child an opportunity to interact with nature and to see a duck up close—to realize they don't all look like Daffy!
— image credit: Judie Steeves/Capital News

As a youngster I loved catching bees and grasshoppers in the tall sweet clover next door to home.

There was a big empty field there just full of wild plants and bugs. To me, it was heaven.

I'd keep them in jars, lined up on a shelf in the woodshed where they couldn't get away from my interest and where I could watch them safely without getting stung.

It was Mom who encouraged my interest in plants, as we competed to identify every wildflower we found on Sunday drives and on fishing trips with Dad.

A wee bit older and we had an entire empty block of wild trees and bush behind our new home, and I'd leave in the morning in summer and not return until hunger pangs demanded it.

My days involved just being a kid, investigating a whole world of wild stuff, from bugs to birds, plants and animals.

Once I learned to drive, I'd take our jeep out on the backroads around the Okanagan, exploring streams, swamps and lakes, watching wild animals and learning about trees and plants. I found it all awe-inspiring.

I began to look forward to the first buttercups and sunflowers of spring and seeing familiar birds return from their migration south; the meadows full of red paintbrush, sky-blue lupines and yellow arnica in summer; colourful groves of yellow aspen or hillsides dotted with golden rabbitbrush, red maples and sumac in fall; and the softened outlines of pine and fir branches as snow weighed down their branches in winter.

Today, my life still revolves around the seasons because each has a special feature that Mother Nature offers to excite us.

But, what about the kids whose folks never introduced them to nature; who think giraffes and elephants are the only wild animals that are interesting because that's what they see on a screen, instead of seeing deer and squirrels in the woods around home?

These are the kids who have what Richard Louv calls Nature-deficit Disorder, where the links between people and the natural world around them have broken, leaving a gap that affects all aspects of their lives.

He's in Kelowna this weekend, speaking to a sold-out house, but his book, Last Child in the Woods is available here at Mosaic Books, as well as The Nature Principle.

He believes that both adults and children should be connecting with the natural world, for both mental and physical good health, and he takes it a step further.

He says research shows that mental acuity and creativity, health and wellness, leadership and innovation and human bonds are stronger in those who have tapped into the restorative powers of nature.

I know I couldn't survive without being regularly immersed in the natural world around me, so nothing he says surprises me.

And, I didn't need his advice to take my kids and grandkids on hiking and camping trips and to encourage their interest in all things about the natural world they see up close on those outings. I already knew it was important, even if I didn't have access to the science.

So, shut off the television and computer and take your kids outside.

Judie Steeves writes about outdoors issues for the Capital News.



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