On a weekday morning, last week, I was waking up, still a bit groggy, when I heard my daughter excitedly calling her brother over to the window, saying something about “birds”. It sounded like my son was unimpressed, but her enthusiasm was surprising for 6:45am.
When I got out of bed and went to the kitchen, I asked, “What were you showing your brother this morning? Something about birds?”
She said, “Oh ya! I was getting ready for school, and I could hear all these birds singing outside! I can’t remember the last time I heard them. I got excited.”
I laughed at the weirdness of it all — but is it that weird, really? We forget how much nature offers us when we rush around all of the time. We’re so busy with work, school, being connected to gadgets, and stuck indoors during the cold season. When winter wraps up and warmer days bring singing birds back, it really does make us feel better. We welcome back a missing piece of our wellness.
I was happy that she kicked off her morning with the happiness of the chirpy birds, but if nature is so important to the well-being of my kids, I worry a bit. They get a lot less of nature’s positive influences than my generation did as kids. I would easily spend eight to ten hours outdoors with other kids on a weekend day in the summer. The kids I see today probably spend a quarter of that time outdoors on a good day! Computers, video games, cell phones and television contribute to keeping kids indoors.
This is why a coalition of groups, led by the Rio Grande chapter of the Sierra Club, wants lawmakers in New Mexico to implement a one-percent tax on video games, game consoles, and TVs. This would create a fund to help pay for outdoor education.
“We believe that an outdoor education program in New Mexico could be funded through a tax on the very activities that are divorcing kids from nature, promoting more sedentary lifestyles,” said Michael Casaus, Sierra Club’s New Mexico youth representative. “One of those culprits is TV and what we call screen time.” (CNN)
Those are sentiments that most concerned parents share, but is more government intervention, laws, and bureaucracy really the answer? Do we really need to outsource parental responsibilities to the government?
Parents already have a lot on their plates and are stressed, but consider Richard Louv’s point from his book, “Last Child in the Woods“: Nature can be an antidote to the problems parents are experiencing. “Stress reduction, greater physical health, a deeper sense of spirit, more creativity, a sense of play, even a safer life – these are the rewards that await a family when it invites more nature into children’s lives,” he says.
It’s our job as parents to get kids off the computers and video games and get them outdoors. It is also important to be involved with them in nature and encourage it by being good role models. We should also enjoy what nature has to offer to us for our own well-being.