A growing body of evidence points to nature’s ability to bring families together. The great outdoors — ranging from your backyard to local preserves to one of our incredible national parks — is the perfect backdrop for fun, affordable family time away from demanding schedules and the screens that consume our days.
In a recent survey, parents felt that camping had a positive impact on their families. Parents credited quality family time, the relaxing outdoor environment, spending time away from the stress of day-to-day routines and teamwork as factors that influenced positive family relationships and family cohesion.
As their feedback shows, camping is a great way to strengthen family bonds. Family members work together to set up a campsite, explore trails, prepare food and engage in unstructured, outdoor play. All family members can contribute, no matter their age or ability. Time slows down. Cooperation and dependence on each other enhances feelings of family connectedness.
The benefits of nature shine during simpler pursuits, as well. Time outdoors is something that families can share at every stage of children’s lives, from gardening to walks around the neighborhood to exploring local rivers, beaches, parks and trails. Activities in natural places can bring families closer by offering time and space away from the distractions of work, home, TV’s and computers. The only multitasking required is to engage all of your senses in experiencing the natural world. Every family needs an outdoor adventure story or two to share throughout the years.
Remember that old saying, “When the kids are happy, everybody is happy?” Science increasingly tells us that time in nature makes children healthier, happier and smarter. They are more self-disciplined, self-confident, creative and cooperative. When parents spend time with their children in nature, family bonds are strengthened. At a time when much of childhood has moved indoors, families play a critical role in making sure that kids experience the many benefits of nature.
Sarah Milligan-Toffler, Executive Director, Children & Nature Network, [email protected]