Saturday, April 20, 2013

GOOD 4 U – Kids: Take Your Parents Outdoors!

We humans—like many animals—have five basic senses (that is, the senses most of us learn to use the most). Can you name them?

When I was a kid, we used all of our senses, all the time. We spent tons of time outdoors. When we got on our parents' nerves, they just said, "Hey, I've had it! Go outside and play!"

We had TV, but our parents only let us watch it when there was something really good on that the whole family could watch together. We had no computers, no video games, no cell phones. If we were bored, we went outside. What do 
you do when you’re bored?

The best, most interesting, most beautiful things 
in the world are already right there, within reach 
of our own, natural, non-electronic senses.

Today, we have all this technology, all these wonderful machines that make life easier, allow us to do things faster, connect us with other people—across the room and around the world.

But all these machines, all that amazing technology, has a dark side. Too many people are starting to confuse it with their real senses. It makes us forget that, often, the best, most interesting, most beautiful things in the world are already right there, within reach of our own, natural, non-electronic senses.

What’s happening in this photo? What would you be doing if you were in their place?

Okay, video games, TV, computers, cell phones and the Internet are great tools for some uses, like learning, looking up information, and just having fun. But there are still some things technology will never be able to do.

Too many kids—and adults too!—are losing touch with all the information, learning and fun that's already right out there in their back yard, down the street at the park, or at a beautiful nature center nearby. What have you learned about Nature close to your house?

Technology often gives us information or experiences made up by someone else. They may be fun, but they don't make you use your senses, your imagination, your creativity…all things that need exercise and that make you smarter and happier.

Your body gets soft and weak…and so does your brain!


You can be in touch with your friends by cell phone or texting, but usually that's all it is, just saying hi, where are you? whatcha doing? It's not really like talking, just very short, not very important messages. What’s different about talking with your friends in person instead of texting or tweeting them?

To really communicate with someone, you have to use all your senses, don’t you? You want to see their eyes, the expression on their face; sometimes you need to touch them.

Nature’s full another kind of energy, one we all need much more than we need electricity.

It's the same when we communicate with Nature. Is seeing a picture of a beautiful waterfall the same as being there, standing in front of it? No! Seeing the picture, even listening to someone talk about that waterfall only calls on us to use a couple of our senses, and even those are kind of weak…because what we're sensing is just a story; it's not real. What senses would you use if you were standing next to a waterfall?

Have you ever noticed how, when you have a bad cold, you can't taste your food, even your favorite things? That's what it's like if you're not really outdoors where you don't just see and hear Nature, but also feel it and smell it and taste it.

Nature has no electrical outlets, no Internet, no cell phone reception. But it's full another kind of energy, one we all need much more than we need electricity.

Now, are smelling, tasting, touching, hearing and seeing our only senses? Some people think so, but I believe there are other senses, ones that are a bit harder to describe and might be very different for different people. One of them is called the sense of wonder.

Wonder is what you're feeling when you come across something that's completely new and amazing, something you've never sensed before—like the first time you turn over a rock or a log and find a little bug or worm that lives under there, the tracks where it's moved, maybe its eggs, and all you can say is Woh-h-h-h!

Wonder is when you're looking up at a big flock of birds and, all of a sudden every single one of them turns at the same time as if they were one giant bird. It's when, in the wintertime, you shuffle your feet across the carpet and then touch something—or some one—and BZ-Z-Z-T!! There's a spark. Have you ever 
done that?


Wonder is my favorite of all the senses, but it's very hard for some people to find. Why, because it isn't something you can go looking for. In fact, the harder you look, the less likely you are to find it. No, wonder is something that has to find you! And the only way it can do that is if you leave the door open and make room for it.

That can be hard, because we're all so busy. We've got school, music or dance lessons, sports, sleep-overs, and all kinds of other events. We're always worried about being on time, not missing anything. Our time is full, our minds are full…

If you guys keep growing up as disconnected from Nature as many kids are, Nature will have a very hard time staying healthy herself. 

Well, what wonder looks for is a place where you and your senses have nothing else to worry about except just being—being quiet, being observant, being curious, sometimes being playful...just being. That's when life's amazing little miracles happen…or should I say that's when you notice them, 'cause they're happening all the time, even if you don't notice them. It's just a lot more fun when you do.

So I hope you'll ask your parents to help you find times when you can make room for wonder. Times to be outdoors, not with any kind of toys, but just with Nature. Times with nothing else to do or worry about except playing, exploring, learning…just being with Nature.

If you've made room for wonder, you'll never be bored and you'll never be lonely, because Nature can be a very good friend. Do you have any friends that aren't people?

Learning to sense wonder in Nature is good for everyone. It's good for you because it helps you grow strong and healthy and smart and happy. It's good for your parents, because they want you to be all those things—and also because they want to be all those things too!

And it's good for Nature, because if you guys—this generation of children—keep growing up as disconnected from Nature as many kids are, Nature will have a very hard time staying healthy herself. Because only when we know and love something do we do what's necessary to take care of it.

We need to take care of Nature. Only if you girls and boys and your parents care enough to make sure we don't pollute the air and water, don't build things where they ruin the homes of wild animals, keep people and companies from using more and more and more stuff we don't really need, can we make sure that when you grow up, your children and grandchildren will still have a beautiful, WONDER-ful world to love too.

The truth is that being outdoors is just as safe 
and beautiful as it was when they were kids.

So, do your parents—and yourself—a favor. Take them outdoors whenever you can. Remember, they probably spent ten times more time out there when they were kids than you do now. Maybe they've forgotten. Maybe they're so busy that it seems they have no time. Maybe, like most parents, they just worry about keeping you safe.

But you can help remind them that:
  • You need free time—when you have nothing else to do, and they're not around. That’s when you’ll get outside, explore and play with your friends and the many animal friends and fun toys Nature provides.
  • Many of their concerns about keeping you kids safe come from news on TV, radio or the Internet that focuses only on a few bad people and bad things. The truth is that being outdoors is just as safe and beautiful as it was when they were kids.
  • You don’t have to go to the wilderness, out in the country, or even to the suburbs to experience Nature. It’s can be as close as your front porch or back yard. 
  • Nature is good for you. Science is proving that it helps you be healthier, smarter and happier.
So, kids, can you do that: remind your parents that you need Nature every day just like they did when they were kids? You will? 
(For another perspective on kids, technology and Nature, see my post from March, 2012, SCREEN-BOUND KIDS – The “Missing” Generation)


Jan Johnsen said...

Bravo! Your advice is so needed. And I had just written a comment to someone saying that we had to get the kids to get up and go outside away from their computer screens. Then I found your blog and read your post!

hmmm. There are no coincidences. Just co-incidences.

Jeffrey Willius said...

Hey Jan - Do you mean you'd already found me today/yesterday while looking for stuff about getting kids outdoors? Or had you already seen my email to you and comment on your blog?
Either way, I'm so glad you stopped by to take a peek! Hope we can stay in touch...

Anonymous said...

I was talking with my parents the other day about how people feel they can't let their kids out of their sites at the younger ages. It seemed like common practice back in the sixties just to let your kids roam free when they were four or five years old. I used to walk to school without any worries... there is no sense of adventure since every move is often monitored by adults who often tell the kids what is acceptable and what is not. It seems to take away the ability for the young people to trust in their feelings and replace them with thoughts and judgements and rules coming from an outside source. Kids seem afraid that they are making wrong choices since fear has been installed as a program. It seems to be making the kids quite unconscious to what is going on all around them.

Jeffrey Willius said...

I couldn't agree more, Bern'e. A Brit has graphed the radius around home that kids & parents have reported feeling safe to roam, unsupervised, even in the city. In our youth, it was miles; by the 80's it had shrunk to blocks; now it's likely to be measured in feet. Alas, the impact of the global, 24/7 news cycle, where every crime is sensationalized and made to feel like it happened in our town.

Sara said...

I enjoyed this post and all your pictures. Your point is well made. Today, it's so easy to disappear into technology and miss the happening all around us.

As a fiction writer, one thing I've been working on is really tuning into my senses. For example, I ask myself: What do I sense in the backyard? Then I try to notice what I smell, hear, see, taste (this one is challenging) and touch. It's a good exercise in really be aware of what is happening around me. Other times, I simply sit in my rocking chair and enjoy life outdoors:~)

Jeffrey Willius said...

Thanks so much, Sara. Yes, I can see how being in touch with all your senses is an asset in your writing. Good for you for keeping those skills sharp. I wouldn't worry about the seeming scarcity of taste experiences in Nature -- it's so closely connected to smell, that I think you can cut yourself some slack ;-) -- that it, unless you come across a patch of wild raspberries or blueberries!!

Post a Comment

Thanks for visiting One Man's Wonder! I'd love to hear your comments on this post or my site in general.
And please stay in touch by clicking on "Subscribe" below.