Co-Parenting with Mother Nature

Citygreen - Project Wildthing Co Parenting with Mother Nature

Co-Parenting with Mother Nature:

As parents and guardians, we look to nurture and grow our children. We wish them health, success, and happiness. We provide opportunities for learning, stimulation, and engagement. Little do we realize though, how much they could be cut short on by the shrinking periods of time spent connecting with nature.

In a world increasingly urban and technological, it is easy to reach for a source of entertainment that flashes awake and produces high-definition distraction while sitting in an air conditioned box of metal and cement. How do we teach our future generations to remember what’s on the other side, and to reach out and care for it in return? Why should we?

“As experts in child development and learning, psychologists are helping children reconnect with nature by conducting research, incorporating the outdoors into clinical interventions and educating parents, says Martha Erickson, a director of early childhood mental health training programs at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.”

Studies show increased cognitive abilities, reduced anxiety, and even decreased feelings of over-stimulation in ADHD diagnosed children. “A study from the Landscape and Human Health Lab in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign…found that girls in a Chicago public housing development who lived in apartments with greener, more natural views scored better on self-discipline tests…[and] that school performance improved in some children who engaged with nature on a regular basis.”

In addition, the idea of harboring a fascination and appreciation for these natural environments creates exponential opportunities for education and cultivating a sense of pride and responsibility for the continuation of nature.

“Often, parents aren’t aware of nature’s benefits to their children, or aren’t sure how to tear their children away from the computer or television screen, says Meg Houlihan, PhD, a private practitioner in Charlotte, N.C.”

The Alliance for Community Trees, or ACTrees has devoted a part of their webpage specifically for educating and offering resources for continuing children’s connection with the outdoors, stating, “ACTrees is working with our partners and member organizations to encourage and foster children’s natural curiosity about trees and the environment.”

The elimination of technology and urban environments may not be likely, or even necessary. Innovations due to technology and education will benefit the successes and discoveries made about the environment and what inhabits it, but for the health of our children, and the earth they will grow up in and raise their children in, forgetting what is outside our windows does all involved a deep disservice.

Image from Project Wild Thing.

Bringing Kids Back to Nature

project wild thing - bringing kids back to nature

Image from Project Wild Thing

 

A report called Sowing the Seeds, Reconnecting London’s Children with Nature for the London Sustainable Development Commission, shows how “giving children access to nature promotes their mental and emotional well-being and may have a positive effect on the behaviour of some children”.

It said that too many of London’s children “have little or no meaningful contact with natural places in the city”. Because of this, the kids maybe be denied “the many and varied benefits that experiences in nature bring; experiences that many adults understand at a deep emotional level from their own childhood memories”.

The report said because of this lack of connection with nature, kids may grow up “indifferent to nature and unsupportive of the need for environmental stewardship”.

It has several recommendations that should be implemented over the years to “have the potential to make a real difference to children’s relationship with the natural world”.

It recommends that schools and early years settings give greater emphasis to offering children engaging everyday nature experiences within their grounds. “This should be done through the creation of natural play spaces and more extensive and easily accessible habitat areas.”

“Two thirds of London’s area is made up of green spaces or water, and 10 percent is designated as Metropolitan Open Land, yet children’s experiences of natural places in the capital have been in long-term decline, as a result of societal changes that have been unfolding for many years.”

Although London is quite a green city, its “green spaces are not uniformly distributed, and many parts of the city are deficient.” The report said that one third of families visit natural places every two months. One in seven had not made a single visit for a year. This statistic is also worse with children from poorer families.

“Initiatives are fragmented, and grappling with complex issues and challenges.” The report said that only four percent of London’s children are being reached by existing initiatives.

Some of the suggestions from the report include creating natural habitats or wildlife area on school grounds, the establishment of forest schools, the increase of natural conservation projects, and the creation of ‘natural play’ approach to the design of public play areas in parks and green spaces. Other initiatives include community-based projects, city farms, community gardens, horticultural projects, after-school programmes, play ranger schemes and so on.

A campaign called Project Wild Thing is pushing for parents to turn screen time into “wild time” playing and enjoying nature outdoors. The project is a film led movement to get more kids and adults outside, reconnecting with nature. The project, which started in 2010, has gained a growing following and has become a movement of organisations and individuals who share the same passion for the cause.

According to a report from Western Gazette in the UK, Camp Bestival has teamed up with the campaign to “help adults and children reconnect with nature” while being entertained. Camp Bestival runs from July 31 to August 3 at Lulworth Castle, Dorset.

Project Wild Thing’s David Bond told the Western Gazette that the campaign is all about how children need to get outdoors and into nature.

“We’re really passionate about connecting young people and adults with the outdoors because it makes them fitter, it makes them healthier, it makes them happier and it makes them develop better.”

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