Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

We planned an idyllic spring break to CA in March. Before we even left home, however, our flight was delayed for two days and we had to get up at 3 am to catch our rescheduled flight. Upon landing, we drove for hours to reach our destination… Yosemite National Park. It was 6 pm, and we were all exhausted. The girls voted to watch some cable TV at our hotel. My husband and I voted to visit Mariposa Grove — home to some of the world’s largest sequoias. Despite loud resistance, we vetoed the girls’ preference and spent time walking among giant sequoias. It was a good decision. Within minutes of entering this hallowed park our stress melted away. There were no more complaints from the girls. We felt at peace. Within just a few minutes I felt like I had been on vacation for a week.

Nature has the ability to transform us. To calm us. To help us think of something beside ourselves. Yet many of our kids have “nature deficit disorder.”

Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Wood, who first coined the term, describes it this way. “Nature-deficit disorder is not an official diagnose but a way of viewing the problem, and describes the human costs of alienation from nature, among them: diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses. The disorder can be detected in individuals, families, and communities.”

“In a typical week, only 6 percent of children, ages nine to thirteen, play outside on their own,” according to Louv.

Yet the effects of connecting with nature are bountiful. “Children are smarter, more cooperative, happier and healthier when they have frequent and varied opportunities for free and unstructured play in the out-of-doors. Green plants and play yards reduce children’s stress. Free play in natural areas enhances children’s cognitive flexibility, problem-solving ability, creativity, self-esteem, and self-discipline. Students score higher on standardized tests when natural environments are integral to schools’ curricula. Effects of attention-deficit disorder are reduced when children have regular access to the out-of-doors,” Louv says.

So even if you won’t be at Yosemite this holiday weekend, simply take your kids outdoors and share the joys of connecting with nature. Visit a park, play in the backyard or walk in the woods. It will have restorative powers for stressed out kids and adults.

Please share favorite outdoor spots that you like to frequent!

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