I recently finished Richard Louv's book Last Child in the Woods and loved it. I have always loved nature, but I'd been finding myself more and more removed from it. My husband and myself both work full-time, my son is into hockey, my daughter is into theater, and we have been becoming more and more chauffeurs, and spending less time outdoors. Technology is taking over our house too. We all have cell phones, my son has a computer, television and gaming system in his room, we have four television and three computers in the house. And more recently I was noticing that we all have our own shows that we like to watch, so we all go into our separate rooms and watch alone - ugh - it is getting kind of scary how removed we have become as a family.
So Mr. Louv's book inspired me to take some action. When my children were younger and at home more, my husband and I would do more things outside. We would swim together, we'd get nets and collect butterfiles and dragonflies from our yard, we'd have campfires. We've always had cottontails and groundhogs busy chasing one another around my garden. So the children were exposed and enjoyed a lot of nature. We also are crazy about our pets, we have two cats and a dog.
But now my children are teens, a 14 and a 16-year-old, I thought they would make more outdoor choices with their spare time. Unfortunately they weren't. My son would go from computer gaming, to hand-held gaming, to texting to television. The closest he would get to outdoors was hockey and working out in the garage. My daughter would choose Facebook time with friends, then posting videos, then texting.
We have all been getting more and more removed from nature, something we all so loved, and it was happening very subtly overtime, very sneaky, like a thief in the night.
So recently I started an effort to get the kids outside more. I started making them walk the dog. Our dog Niki is part husky and so looks forward to the walks. So every other day after school, one of them has to walk down our road for at least a half and hour. They now are meeting their friends on these walks and walking with them or with their dogs. It's helped my son because he has started to bring his Iphone and take pictures of the spectacular sunsets he sees.
Something else I do with him is because he has always been a good artist (he stopped completely when he began gaming), I make him draw me an animal picture that's worth money toward something he wants - he just go a hoodie for three animal pictures. He's actually sold his pictures on Etsy and won an award a our local fair for his art. None of this would have happened if he wasn't off the computer. Next I'm going to make him take his own pictures outside and draw from those.
My daughter I recently took to our local museum, the Florence Griswold Museum, because they had an outdoor art show with faerie villages made from artists. It was wonderful being outside and looking at the 33 beautifully crafted houses all made from natural materials. This inspired my daughter to look around our yard, find some sticks, bark, pine branches and nuts and make her own faerie house in our yard.
Getting my teens outside more is a work in progress, but I can't give up. They still need coaxing and they need positive nature role models, and so do I!