Give the gift of Vitamin N (Nature)!
“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he [or she] needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.” — Rachel Carson
Are you and your children or grandchildren preoccupied with computer games and the latest wonder of the technological age? Do you spend hours a day looking at social media? Do you know the names of each of the Kardashians, but not the species of the trees or birds in your backyard?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, then you and your family need a healthy dose of Vitamin N, the nature supplement we all need for healthy lives. If you give your family the gift of a nature-rich life, they will be forever grateful. Better yet, give yourself the gift of nature as well.
The Last Green Valley Inc. (TLGV) provides a wealth of information for locations and organizations that provide a place to explore the outdoors (and indoors, too). The TLGV 2022 Explore Guide will be available soon and you can also access this information through the TLGV website. Information can be found at: https://thelastgreenvalley.org/explore-the-last-green-valley/explore-guide/
TLGV offers programs specifically for families and kids. Check out the TLGV website link for “kids adventures” where you’ll discover a new farm adventure series, expanded Summer Trail Camp program, and our monthly Acorn Adventures program. You can access that information at: https://thelastgreenvalley.org/whats-going-on-in-tlgv/kids-adventures/
The TLGV calendar of events is full of opportunities for families and along with the Acorn Adventure programs are several Night Sky Adventures offered by TLGV Rangers Geoff and Kim McLean. You can find these and more at: https://thelastgreenvalley.org/tlgv-events/ as well as on our Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/LastGreenValley
A few years ago, I read “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder,” by Richard Louv. In his book, Louv explores the “increasing divide between the young and the natural world, and the environmental, social, psychological and spiritual implications of that change.” It also describes accumulating research revealing how contact with nature is necessary for healthy child – and adult – development. As children and adults spend less time in the natural world, the richness of the human experience is reduced. It should be no surprise that research has linked our mental, physical and spiritual health to our direct association with nature.
Following up on “Last Child in the Woods,” Louv published “Vitamin N: 500 Ways to Enrich the Health & Happiness of Your Family & Community,” and I offer both of these books as suggested reading for parents, grandparents, teachers, educators and naturalists who are searching for inspirational and fun ways to share the natural world with others.
With Richard Louv’s books as a jumping off point, here are a few suggestions for how to experience nature with your children, grandchildren, friends and family in The Last Green Valley.
Organize a duffle bag or backpack so you can be ready at any time to get outside for a dose of Vitamin N. Your backpack should include the basics, such as insect repellant, water bottles and snacks as well as binoculars, a magnifying glass, compass, maps, and field guides. Consider guides to birds, mammals and trees as well as guides to amphibians and animal tracks. You may want to bring a notebook and pencil for jotting down a list of animals or plants discovered. One guidebook I suggest is the “Kaufman Field Guide to Nature in New England” as one source of information with color photographs and basic information on the most common animals, and plants in the region for easy and fast identification.
Richard Louv’s books are full of helpful and fun ideas for combatting nature deficit disorder. Here are some of my favorites.
- Put nature on the calendar. We organize sport commitments and vacations in advance, how about we do the same for time spent in nature. “For busy families, taking time for nature requires taking time – and putting it on the calendar.”
- Include a hike in your family holiday traditions. A pre-Thanksgiving feast hike is a great way to build an appetite, and First Day Hikes (January 1st) have become very popular. Several are offered in Connecticut on New Year’s Day.
- If you have a garden at your home, consider giving part of it to your children or grandchildren to tend as their own. Let them pick out flowers or vegetables to plant, show them how to care for the plants, and let them enjoy the benefits from the harvest.
- Build a tree house or play fort. When I was about 10 years old my dad helped me build a tree house in our back yard. He put up the roof and floor and allowed me to do the rest. Many years ago, my son and I built a simple teepee fort in the woods behind our house. I enjoyed countless hours in my tree house, usually sitting on the roof looking up into the trees. I think my son enjoyed his fort, too. You can find several online resources for building tree houses, including some are very elaborate structures. I suggest you keep it simple and let the kids take ownership.
- Find a good place for observing nature and return to it often – at least once every few weeks and in all seasons. Our state forests and parks are excellent locations to sit, be mindful, observe, and allow the natural world to reveal itself. In fact, you may have a good location right in your own backyard. I have a spot under the crabapple tree near my vegetable garden. I like to keep notes and observations about the weather as well as birds and other animals that pass by. I encourage you to bring your kids along and help them find a place of their own.
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