by Cheryl Jackson Wednesday March 14, 2012

How much time did you spend outdoors as a kid?  I spent almost all my time outside - in parks, in valleys, on farms, in the streets and back alleys with my friends. I came home for meals and bed, and that's about it. Even today, I would rather be outside than anywhere else; therefore, my kids have spent a lot of time outdoors. They haven't really had a choice. I've discovered that this is a good thing, although that was not the original goal.

It appears now my kids have the same need to get outside. My youngest daughter just came home from a volunteer work trip to Kenya. She's 'discombobulated', as my colleague Nicola aptly called it, struggling with the juxtaposition of two very different worlds. So what did she do last night, when she didn't know what else to do?  She took our dog for a long walk.  She was up at 3 am this morning, thanks to jet lag, and as soon as it got light out, she went for another walk, for two hours. We live downtown, so this is no nature walk, but she was outside, free, wandering, observing, thinking.  Later today, she's planning on walking to a park with her friend, where they'll do more of the same. 

It's March Break right now, and I'd recommend outside free time over any other activity. It's cheap, easy to organize, and gives kids and adults a real break from all the organizing and structure that defines the rest of our lives. If you can get your child to a natural environment - a park, a forest, the waterfront - even better. There's lots of research now that validates the calming, yet exciting effect nature has on  human beings. We interviewed Richard Louv after he published his book,  Last Child in the Woods, where he described so-called "nature deficit disorder". He was joined by outdoor educator Grant Linney and Cam Collyer of Evergreen. It was a good discussion and might give you some ideas for March Break with the kids. Enjoy.