March 4 2013 Do you get enough Vitamin N?
One of my earliest childhood memories is my first fishing trip with my Dad; I was about 4 years old. He sat me down on the bank of the river, he’d baited my line and cast it for me and told me to hold onto it, wait for a bite and he would be right back. About 30 seconds later I got a bite and almost scared the rest of the fish away as I screamed to Dad who was at the car, “I’ve got one Dad, I’ve got one!”
Modern culture and lifestyle means that today’s children will recall first memories of television programs, electronic games and a life lived indoors rather than outdoors.
Apparently, an average person can spend around 8 hours a day connected to the digital world. Worse, I read recently that kids aged 8-18 spend 40 hours per week ‘connected’, the equivalent to working a full time job. So, a child born today will have spent nearly 10 years of their life in front of a screen by the time they’re 30 years old. A full decade of watching life instead of living one!
It can’t be denied; the benefits of technology are many but I’m concerned about modern society’s lack of engagement with nature. This trend also spells trouble for the environment and natural world. How will the next generation of leaders protect and conserve the natural world when they have not forged a bond with nature, captured an interest in the environment or an understanding of environmental issues?
The good news however, is plenty. Vitamin N (nature) is easy to swallow, it’s available in abundance and it’s not far from your doorstep, even in urban neighbourhoods. Stepping outside and reconnecting with the natural world is good for children’s health; it decreases stress and promotes physical activity.
My childhood is filled with memories of gardening with my Dad in the backyard, looking for tadpoles in big muddy puddles in the park down the road from my house and building giant fortresses out of piles of cut grass on the local oval. When a child is out in nature all of their senses get activated. Rather than focusing narrowly on one thing, such as a computer screen, they see, hear, smell, touch and maybe even taste!
As little as 5 minutes spent in nature has a positive effect on mental and physical health. Smell the flowers in a park, go build sandcastles at the beach, build a mud brick fairy house in your backyard or go where the wild things are and explore a state or national park for a day. The possibilities are endless and thankfully there is a whole nature-network of organisations that can help reconnect you and your children to the natural world.
What do you and your kids do to get some Vitamin N?