While advances in technology has brought mankind immense benefits, it has also affected us in many adverse ways. One of them is our children becoming addicted to gadgets and confining themselves to their rooms instead of going out to play. While this habit is playing havoc with their mental and physical health, it is also preventing them from mingling with their surroundings and looking at the wonders of Nature. In fact, the crisis has become so alarming that in his book, ‘Last Child in the Woods’, Richard Louv coined the term Nature Deficit Disorder to draw attention to the disconnect between children and the environment.
However, this is not a trend that cannot be reversed. With these simple techniques, you can help you child discover his love for the outdoors and get close to Nature.
Backyard exploration: Make your backyard the starting point from where to start the process of bonding with Nature. Encourage your child to explore his backyard and make a journal of all that he finds there. Observing the different types of shrubs, flowering plants, ants, beetles and crickets would capture his interest and you will find him going out there often.
Plant a garden: Encourage your child to mark his own area in the backyard where she can plant a few saplings and take care of them. To evoke her interest, get her some gardening tools to help in her pursuit. Teach her how to water the plants and observe their growth.
Camp in your backyard: Nowadays, we see a lot of hawkers selling pop-up tents on the roadside. Buy one and unfold it in your backyard. Ask your child to gather all the stuff that he would need to stay out for the night, for example, night dress, bedding, books, emergency lamp and so on. If you have a couple of trees in your backyard, you can also hang a hammock for your child to spend some time resting there every day.
Nature-themed family meal: Once in a while, remove all the processed foods from the dining table and have a nature-themed family meal. Buy seasonal vegetables and fruits and serve the preparations in wooden or clay bowls.
Go for a Nature walk: Take your child out for a walk to the park. If you have a wooded area nearby where you can go for a walk, take your child along. Let her touch the trees, observe the wild flowers, or sit on the rocks or fallen branches. Sit with her and watch the sunset or just lie down and gaze at the stars. Spending a few quiet moments with Nature strengthens the Nature–human bond.
Go birding: On a Sunday morning, ask your child to pack a pair of binoculars, a notebook and a pen, and head to the woods where you can watch a variety of birds. If you don’t live in a place where you can go birdwatching, then head to the botanical garden or the local zoo. While watching the different animals and birds, also tell your child something about their habitat and habits.
Pack off for picnic: A picnic to a scenic spot near a lake or a river bank provides the perfect opportunity for the entire family to get together. Not only do such occasions make children feel enthusiastic and happy, but also strengthens the bond between everyone. While there, allow your child to get dirty by playing in the mud, climb trees, roll on the grass or just run around chasing butterflies. However, before you head to spend time near a water body, warn your children about the dangers of venturing alone into water and the precautions they should take.
Visit the farmer’s market: Almost every town or city in India has a farmer’s market where local farmers sell their produce. Take your child to one such market and show him around. Let him observe the produce there. Encourage him to talk to the farmers and learn something about farming. On the way back, you can also buy some seeds of different plants for your child to grow in the backyard or in a flowerpot.
Talk about conservation and recycling: Tell your child why we need to conserve Nature and natural resources. Tell her how she damages or pollutes the environment when she is careless about throwing the trash or wastes paper or insists on going to the school in a car. Teach her why conserving trees, water and other natural resources is important for us.
Once you pull your child away from the gadgets and out of the house to spend some time outdoors, you will be surprised to know how much she enjoys it. Not only will it have a positive effect on her health, but also make her an active participant in mankind’s efforts to save Nature.
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