Thursday, April 12, 2012

Open the Door

Are you frustrated with how your kids spend their hours and days at home? Head bent down, eyes fixated on some small screen...occupied. Will it be more of the same this summer?

One suggestion: Open the Door. The open door is an invitation to explore. Get them out while they are young.

Remove the obstacles. Make an attempt to abandon the impediments: TV, computer, iphone, ipad, i-(fill-in-the-blank). And please, find the time, make time to join them. Strengthen you parent-child bond.

Show your enthusiasm for nature. You are an important ingredient to help nourish it in your child.

Surrounded by a quiet, natural setting, children will come alive with their inherent curiosity. Let them be spontaneous. Follow their interests. Stimulate the use of their senses. Slow down. Look. Listen. Learn.

"I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in tune once more."   John Burroughs

Twice in the past four years, I have read this book from our Kent District Library, (KDL) and last week our dear daughter Sarah gifted me with my own copy. It included her "Dear Daddy" dedication inside. Thank you Sarah! The book: Last Child in the Woods (Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder) by Richard Louv. c2005, c2008. (Last Child)Louv was the recipient of the 2008 Audubon Medal.

Please allow me to present several excerpts, for they enumerate a prevailing theme throughout Louv's book:

  • Why do so many Americans say they want their children to watch less TV, yet continue to expand the opportunities for them to watch it?     p.63
  • There is a real world beyond the glass, for children who look, for those whose parents encourage them to truly see.     p.64
  • Children need nature for the healthy development of their senses, and, therefore, for learning and creativity.     p.54
  • ...natural settings are essential for healthy child development because they stimulate all the senses and integrate informal play with formal learning.     p.85
  • ...multisensory experiences in nature help to build the cognitive constructs necessary for sustained intellectual development, and stimulate imagination... Natural spaces... serve as the medium of inventiveness and creativity. (Robin Moore)     p.87
  • Children learn about the rain forest, but usually not about their own region's forests, or even just the meadow outside the classroom door. (David Sobel)     p.135
"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 with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in."  Rachel Carson

Finally, Richard Louv writes about his own two sons, now grown into men:

I feel a sense of pride and relief that they have grown well, and a deep grief that my years as a parent of young children is over, except in memories. And I am thankful. The times I spent with my children in nature are among my most meaningful memories-- and I hope theirs.

When you spend time outdoors with your kids when they are young, most likely they will want to continue the adventures when they too become adults. See Rich, Mary and Sarah hiking at this famous location.

Every Father's Day, Sarah creates a loving, hand-made, personalized card for me. A special photograph of when she was my little girl usually makes the cover page. Of course these photos bring tears to my eyes. Or it may be a more recent photo like when I'm carrying Sarah (now in her 30s) piggy-back, as I wade across the Platte River in Northwest Michigan.

The best part however, is the loving message she writes on the inside of the card. It comes from deep inside her heart, and reaches deep into mine. Her words linger... the memories endure.

This photograph is our sweet Sarah at Lake Michigan, when she came from California to visit her "Mommy and Daddy" at Christmas. She strikes her "Thank you God for a wonderful day!" response.

                                               We love you Sarah!                 We all miss you Aaron.

Photo Locations:

1. & 2. Flagstaff,  (Flagstaff) Arizona
3. Arches National Monument, (Arches) Utah
4. Platte River, (Platte River) Honor,  Michigan
5. Grand Haven, (Grand Haven) Michigan