By Marghanita Hughes
When I was young I was rarely inside. I had a carefree childhood thanks to my wonderful nature loving, artistic parents.
I believe, the time I have spent outdoors with my children when they were very young has created habits that are both healthy for their bodies and healthy for nature. It’s kept them interested and fuelled the need to be outdoors whether it’s skiing; playing volleyball in the backyard; going mountain biking in the forest; pulling up fresh potatoes from the veggie patch or simply sitting under the shade of a large Ponderosa tree reading, If we can engage children at a young age they will develop good habits that will carry on through their lifetime.
As parents; teachers; grandparents we have a duty to enrich our children’s lives with nature. When children and nature mix, something magical happens and every child deserves to experience that magic
When my children were younger I had to fight to get them indoors for dinner and bedtime. Now that they are older, I still have to fight to get them to come inside but occasionally I have to unplug them first.
Yes, I haven’t escaped the plugging in either. My eldest turned 16 last year and worked all summer to buy a ski pass but he also wanted to buy a PS3(play station). I knew this day would arrive.
What could I say! I was proud of the fact he had worked so hard and that he was willing to buy his own ski pass not to mention putting some of his hard earned cash towards his school trip to Europe.
My husband and I agreed to let him have the PS3 but there would have to be rules.
One of which was a day on, day off policy – which seems to work for us.
To me it’s about striking a balance - mixing his free time with lots of outdoor time.
Sometimes the reality is that the parents need to UNPLUG too!
Playing ball games together
As two of our children hit teenager years, I realise too, that we have to accommodate their changing outdoor needs. They are no longer interested in making mud pies but would gladly pick our fresh peaches and bake a pie. They want to play more competitive games so we now have a permanent volleyball/badminton net in the backyard. Basketball and soccer are still big family favourites. My husband is a huge soccer fan and spends hours playing the game with all 3 of our children.
Biking and forest walk
Our bike trails and forest walks are now more challenging and longer (hard to keep up sometimes) and they love to be involved in cooking outdoors and helping with the vegetable patch. Vegetables patch I would recommend to every parent to grow some vegetables, even if you don’t have a yard you can still grow vegetables in containers. Kids of all ages (even teenagers) love watching things grow.
Let them use your camera
Another great way to get older kids involved outside is to let them use your camera. I don’t know of one kid who doesn’t enjoy taking photos. There are so many wonderful and amazing things in nature to capture on film-the possibilities are endless.
Children are spending less time playing outdoors, while the Natural Environment is being destroyed
I feel incredibly fortunate to live in beautiful British Columbia, the abundance of wildlife and wilderness is so inspirational.
So what am I doing to help connect kids to nature...
As a mother of 3, I have always had two major concerns: children are spending far less time playing outdoors than ever before; the Natural Environment around us is constantly being plundered and destroyed. As a child, I revelled in the magic of Mother Nature.
As a parent, I now feel driven to protect it. I want my children and the generations that follow to inherit the same privileges that I once enjoyed. My hope is that children understand that they are very much a part of the natural world.This led me to create The Little Humbugs -The Little Humbugs are based on my award winning book series that involves children on a quest to protect our Natural World.
“ The Humbugs slip quietly into our towns and cities. They are here to look after what’s left of nature and the small creatures that live there. Here they can spread seeds around areas that would normally be bare of living things, spreading colour and life back into the neglected parts of your town. “