More children live in urban environments than ever before. And it’s taking a toll on our kid’s health.
Countless modern illnesses have been correlated with city living, from asthma and allergies to depression and anxiety. The quintessential trip to the countryside used to be a hallmark of the family outing and worked well to ease the pressure of modern life. But today’s busy families are often too stressed and over-committed to get outdoors on a regular basis.
Fortunately we can rewild childhood (and families too!) by taking small and simple steps to encourage nature connection and health restoration.
Step#1: Let your kids outdoors (at least 30 minutes each day)
It’s time to open the door and let your kids outside! As easy as it may sound, children these days spend less time outdoors than prison inmates. That means less sunshine, less fresh air, and fewer chances to get down and dirty with nature. Make a commitment to your children’s health and happiness by letting them play and romp outdoors each and every day.
Step #2: Allow full-contact nature experiences
Nature exploration is a full contact activity. It’s good for kids to build mud pies with their hands, have scratches from climbing trees, and get soggy from puddle jumping. Resist the urge to micromanage your child’s outdoor experiences. Instead of viewing nature, let your family experience nature!
Step #3: Get skillful with local ecology
Do you know what kind of trees are in your neighborhood? Or which butterflies are in your garden? How about the species of frog you hear croaking at dusk? Connecting with nature requires learning about and being intrigued by your natural community. Being a skilled naturalist isn’t rocket science. Grab a field guide, visit your local nature center, and help your kids to know the native flora and fauna.
Step #4: Nourish and heal with real foods
Real foods don’t come in a box. Rewilding childhood demands taking a closer look at the sustenance that children put in their bodies. Organic and non-GMO foods are of course a good idea, but local and seasonally abundant foods are even better. Starting a home garden, grocery shopping at your local farmer’s markets, and berry picking on nature trails are helpful first steps to re-wilding your family diet.
Step #5: Promote free form movement
Modern kids are overcommitted with standardized tests, afterschool activities, and competitive sports. Early childhood research tells us that kids learn best when allowed to engage in unstructured, outdoor free play. Equally important is when that play is child-led, rather than adult-driven. So step back, and let kids express their wild side. Trust that they’re learning and growing along the way.
Carrigton, D. (2016). Three-quarters of UK children spend less time outdoors than prison inmates–survey. The Guardian.
Chawla, L. (2015). Benefits of nature contact for children. CPL bibliography, 30(4), 433-452.
Finlay, B. B., & Arrieta, M. C. (2016). Let Them Eat Dirt: Saving Your Child from an Oversanitized World. Algonquin Books.
Hanscom, A. J. (2016). Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children. New Harbinger Publications.
Louv, R. (2008). Last child in the woods: Saving our children from nature-deficit disorder. Algonquin Books.