Go to fullsize imageToday was the final day of class at Zack and Anson’s preschool.  Zack graduates tomorrow night in a very formal 4 year old ceremony.  They will all be wearing caps and gowns, tassles…the whole bit.  I will be sure to post a pic of our grad.  The final results are not in, but I am sure he is the top of his class seeing as how Harvard has already contacted us about a full ride scholarship for 2020.  I happen to have the inside track on what Anson’s 2-3 year old class will be serenading the grads with… A rousing rendition of “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “5 Little Monkeys” will be sung by 14 little babes.  A picnic will follow on Friday to celebrate this grand event.  Then it’s summer and the kids and I are going to…

Hmmmm…what next?  It’s summer and the kids and I are going to go to the beach a few times and….ahhh…then what?  Okay, so I don’t have a ton of summer plans set up for the kiddos yet.  I don’t like to set too formal of a calendar.  Summer is a time to hang loose and relax.  I am against overscheduling.  We are a bit of a group of homebodies over here.  I find the best moments with my kids are not in a car running around town (or heaven forbid a craft store) or in a crowd of people at some scheduled event (even though our city offers a zillion great things that offer other opportunities for interactions).  I like the moments where we are comfortable in our own pace, enjoying life and watching worms.  The giggles, the teachable moments, and the feeling of the family unit are priceless.

I have been trying to spend time reading the book “Last Child In the Woods.  Saving our children from nature deficit disorder.”  This book proposes that many of today’s children are “suffering” from lack of exposure to anything that is truly nature. Richard Louv provides evidence that many problems such as obesity and attention deficit disorder can be reduced if children are allowed to play in nature.  I agree!  I agree! I agree!

My childhood was spent in a smallish town by the Lake Michigan Shore. West Olive, MI, to be exact (located between Holland, MI and Grand Haven, MI).  I could take a 10 minute bike ride and be at the beach playing in the sand and waves for hours or just cooling off a minute at the end of a hot day.  Our backyard was bordered by woods of oaks and pines that blanketed rolling sand dunes.  Perfect for spending hours building forts and finding natural treasures. You couldn’t see another home if you looked straight back.  Across the street was one house and more of the same terrain.  We hopped across the gravel road to pick wild blackberries, lilacs, or pussy willows.  I tiptoed (against my mother’s wishes) through icy snowmelt waters that gathered in the gentle dune valleys.  We would walk our country block and gather wildflowers for our perfume factory which consisted of a few buckets, a hose, and sassafras stirrers. 

Like most parents, I want these fond childhood memories for my children as well.  I want them to run further than the end of the driveway without fearing for their life.  I want them to fall asleep to the rhythmic Whipoorwill and know that Spring has arrived by the chorus of the Spring Peepers (or at least know what they are).  I want them to appreciate how interconnected their own lives are with everything around them.  I want them to find the beauty hidden under an old log.  I want it all for them.  This is my challenge this summer as I enter this season for the first time feeling like they are all old enough to remember what they are experiencing.  How do I expose them to true wild nature when our yard has a concrete border?  Is a perfectly manicured park and playground nature?  Where can we go hiking in the trees instead of strolling down a paved path through planned landscaping on a regular basis?

And this is my challenge you, my dear reader:  First, read this book or at least get a handle on what the “gist of it” is.  Secondly, please share some ideas of ways to expose your kids to true nature.  I will also share with you our summer plans/activities that lend themselves to allowing nature to heal the wounds of stressed out modern life.  Let’s keep our kids balanced, happy, and awed.