As I write this, I’m sitting in a local coffee shop while being distracted by the beautiful blue sky and the sense that spring is finally coming to life. People walking in aren’t buried in layers of outerwear anymore and the general ambient buzz is one that understands it’s time to escape from our winter cocoons.
The transitioning that’s taking place right now – that being the shift from winter and into spring is perhaps one of the most active and vibrant transitions of the year. While I’m someone who enjoys being outdoors all year long, I recognize that many others see winter as something to run away from (Despite the relative non-existant winter we’ve had this year). Now that the weather seems more palatable for even the most ardent of cold weather haters, it’s time to start thinking about getting outside and making the most of the revitalizing weather that’s upon us.
Spring time is also an amazing time for families with children. Moms and Dads everywhere can hardly contain their enthusiasm that they can now send their kids outside without having to layer them up. I can personally attest as to how bad it gets when kids have been basically indoors for a few months but to me, spring offers just as much of an opportunity for families to get outside together as it does for kids to be out on their own. From a fitness, educational, economical or even fundamental perspective making plans to get out as a family in the spring has a virtually unlimited upside.
When kids are buzzing around with all that stored up energy to release there isn’t a better tonic out there than a good dose of fresh air. On top of the obvious fitness benefits, being outdoors can be of benefit to a child’s cognitive and attentive skills as well. When kids come home from school, instead of letting them flop in front of the television or computer or zone into their DSI’s, we should try to encourage them to get outside for a bit. I know it’s not always easy and my kids need a good push now and again, but spending even a half hour outside with their friends or on their bikes can help them better concentrate when it comes time to get down to their homework.
Giving kids some time outside after school can clearly also help to increase their appetites before dinner. Picky eaters stand a chance of being less picky if they are hungry enough and exercise might just help make them so. Let’s not also forget that for those who don’t always fall asleep fast enough, fresh air can be one of the best organic tranquilizers you’ve ever known.
Another great thing about spring and the outdoors is that it provides for an amazing educational opportunity as well. Spring is the season of regeneration and re-birth and because of that, there are countless opportunities for kids to learn. My family loves to take regular trips to our local Zoo in the spring. It’s amazing to learn about the mating habits and rituals that happen with so many species in the spring and a Zoo is the perfect place to learn from. Nature walks are also a favourite activity of ours. Admittedly in my case we are blessed by living so close to an abundance of nature trails, but even city dwellers can find nature in parks or green fields nearby. There is so much to discover on a nature walk and my kids will bring magnifying glasses or other aides to pick out and discover whatever crosses their path. Even local farms are bursting with learning opportunities for our kids and many of them welcome visitors all throughout the year.
The economic argument about getting outdoors comes from that fact that being outdoors essentially can have no cost associated to it. While certainly things like organized sports or attending events can cost money, to get outside and kick around a soccer ball or to hop on a bike, or to go for a walk is typically free. With so many other expenses on the rise for families, why not take full advantage of something that has great appeal and little to no costs at all.
Fundamentally speaking, to get our kids outdoors and to teach them to develop a love and respect for nature can build within them a lifelong appreciation and respect for the environment. While stewardship of the environment can be learned at any age, it’s exponentially easier to do so while our kids are young. We as adults need to remember that we did not inherit this planet from our ancestors so much as we are simply borrowing it from our children. By developing a love and respect for nature collectively, it teaches children a valuable lesson and emphasizes to adults the reasons why we need to teach them.
So with spring upon us, start making plans to get the family into the outdoors as often and as frequently as you can. Aside from the requisite needs to sleep, eat, freshen up and check for new posts on Enviro Dad (shameless plug, I know) there are very few reasons why being one with nature can’t be a regular and ongoing experience!