Family nature clubs: Connecting to a fun world of outdoor exploration
If you were to share some of your fondest memories from your childhood, what would you tell us? Maybe it was the softness of your grandmother’s cheek, the fun adventures you had with your first dog, or maybe it was the memory of digging holes to “China” or mucking around in the woods? You too will probably recall the freedom you had to roam around in the neighbourhood, engaging in what we now call “unstructured outdoor play”. Perhaps you remember your parents commanding “Go out and play”, and the only rule was being back before it got dark? Those were great times, weren’t they?! If you have kids of your own, you’ll know that times have changed and we might have been the last generation of kids who enjoyed an opportunity to roam freely.
According to a study by the David Suzuki Foundation, most Canadian children spend less than an hour outside each day (including recess at school). The reasons are many; for those of you who are parents and grandparents to younger children, you might have noticed that children are spending a significant amount of time on IPads, most children live a busy life where parents are managing their children’s after-school schedules, sport practices, music lessons, homework and play dates, and many parents are anxious about letting the children outdoors without supervision.
One of the antidotes to the general busyness is for children and their parents (many of us are often just as busy and overscheduled as our children) is to participate in low-key joint activities that help us connect to each other and have joint experiences that will build memories. Since we were founded 17 years ago, we have very deliberately involved the whole family in our nature club program. Getting outdoors and unplugging is good for the entire family, it strengthens family ties and it creates a sense of community when families come together. The study mentioned above, found that if youth spend time outside when they’re young, they’re 20 per cent more likely to take part in outdoor programs or to explore nature on their own when they’re older. The key lesson here is that getting outside as a family can create a nature habit that lasts a life time.
NatureKids BC runs volunteer-led nature clubs across BC, so if you and your family aren’t already a NatureKids BC member, join us and come explore! If there isn’t a nature club where you are, we invite you to start one up – our staff will give you all the support that you need.