As August fades to September, we sometimes encounter a lull in our outdoor activities.
Summer has been so full of hiking, swimming, camping and cookouts that we might be tempted to hide indoors until the leaves start changing to their fall colors. If you are looking for some inspiration to get your family back outside again, a trip to the library might be in order.
The library holds a vast array of resources that can encourage us as parents to get our children off the couch and back out into nature, whether that is our backyard or a local forest.
Two books that can help parents understand the need for children to spend daily time outdoors are Richard Louv’s "Last Child in the Woods" and Scott Sampson’s "How to Raise a Wild Child."
When Louv’s book was first published in 2005 it was a clarion call to get our children away from the world of TV screens and other electronics and get them back into the natural world where their creativity could flourish and their senses could reset to normal. He talks about nature-deficit disorder and the calming effect that daily outdoor experiences can have on children. "Last Child in the Woods" reminded me of my own childhood, spent mostly outdoors, and how freeing it was to just be a kid who roamed around the yard looking for nature to entertain me. As our own daughters grew, I kept in mind the things Louv had pointed out about nature inspiring creativity and how outdoor play lowers stress levels. Our girls grew up knowing the joy of finding bird feathers, matching leaves to trees, and watching butterflies.
Scott Sampson’s "How to Raise a Wild Child," published in 2015, is a handbook of the how-to in regard to children and nature. Sampson combines what he learned from his own studies and raising his daughter with what Louv encouraged and turned it into a look into how to combine nature, family time, and, occasionally, a little technology to get your family outdoors and make it their favorite place to be. As Louv encouraged us to get outdoors, Sampson shows us how to stay outside and thrive there.
The local library can also provide books to inspire your children. "Nature School" by Manning and Granström offers simple fun activities to do together as a family or group. There are also field guides designed for young naturalists such as "Backyard Birds" by Latimer and Nolting or "National Geographic Kids Bird Guide of North America" by Jonathan Alderfer. These guides provide photos, illustrations, and text geared toward upper elementary and middle school-aged children. Being able to identify the nature that they see gives children an understanding and love of the outdoors that can turn into careful stewardship of natural resources as they mature.
Carol Emmert lives in Anderson. She is a founding director of Heart of the River Coalition.