Get outside on Nature Play Day!
I recently found out that today is Nature Play Day, a national celebration of the joy of outdoor play which is organized once a year by the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada.
I don't need an organized day to remind me to get outside – my son reminds me every day by asking, "O'side?" (Translation: Can we go outside right now?) He is only 20 months old, but has already grown an appreciation for nature and loves being outside. From day one, I’ve been taking him outside as often as I can. When he was just months old, we would go for long walks along the river with him sleeping in the stroller – an activity that we both enjoyed and benefited from! As he got older, I’d point out things along the way like snowflakes falling, the tiny buds emerging on the trees in the spring, the birds singing, and the ducks swimming in the water.
The street that we live on now is always bustling with activity and children outside playing. One walk down the street and you’ll find street hockey games, kids shooting hoops, baseball games and even lacrosse! The older kids have gotten creative, and will take a video of one of the boys (of course it's a boy!) attempting to jump over a hockey net. It's great to see the neighbourhood bustling with outdoor activity, and it's one of the reasons why we moved here in the first place. We wanted our son to grow up in an active community, where he could run around with the other kids after school.
The sad reality, however, is that kids today are growing up less and less connected to nature. Techno-gadgets like iPhones, iPods and pretty much anything else that begins with an 'i' are taking kids away from the outdoors. The average kid spends hours and hours a day looking at a screen, whether it’s a TV or a computer or a handheld video game. It’s an entire generation of kids with record high rates of obesity, which is linked to a whole suite of health-related issues. Author Richard Louv discussed some of these issues in his book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, and made the point that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development, including both physical and emotional health.
We should all realize that it’s in our best interest to encourage kids to explore the wonders of nature and to build a generation of wilderness enthusiasts, who can carry on being advocates for wilderness and wildlife. Nature doesn't have a voice, and it's up to the next generation to help protect the places we love.
Nature Play Day is a good day to reflect on how often you get outside to play. Think back on your childhood and remember what you used to do. When I was young, I‘d spend hours with my best friend exploring in the forest near our house. As teenagers, we would take our horses out on long trail rides. We would spend all summer long at the ranch, riding horses, taking kids on pony rides, helping with the chores, jumping on the hay bales, and just having fun.
This year on Nature Play Day, I’ll be going to my son's daycare and talking to his class about the animals that can be found in the woods nearby. We'll go for a nature walk in the forested trails behind the school and explore all of the things to see, hear, smell and touch. I'm looking forward to watching their young faces light up at what they discover!
Let us know what you'll be doing today for Nature Play Day - gather your friends, family and colleagues, and find time to get outside and play! It can be as simple as playing ball at lunch, splashing in a mud puddle, looking for spiders, listening to the birds, or feeling the cool grass on your back as you watch the clouds roll by.
Whatever it is, get outside and have fun!