Why our kids still need nature

A few weeks ago, I took my kids for a week-long vacation to the beautiful island of Jamaica. It still pains me a little to think about the hotel bill, but what we got from the experience was truly priceless.

The hotel was beautiful for sure — and the beach was really nice, too — but that’s not the part of the trip I treasure most. What I really loved was watching my kids experience the life I had growing up there.

From mango trees to lizards crawling, nature is part of the daily life in Jamaica, and my kids got to experience some of it. They ventured into a bat cave, saw birds and fruit trees, and watched crabs crawl in and out of holes on the beach. One night after dinner we even stopped to watch a snail crawl for several feet, which, as you can imagine, took quiet a long time.

As a child, I didn’t think much of these experiences. As an adult, I later realized how much they added to my life. I knew a little bit more about the world because I witnessed it first-hand. As a mom raising three kids in Manhattan, I think a great deal about those same experiences now.

Research shows that when kids come in contact with nature it reduces stress, stimulates their senses, enhances cognitive development, and improves their attention span. So this summer, in between camp and all the summer fun, give kids an opportunity to reconnect with Mother Earth in a meaningful way.

Here are five fun ways to enjoy nature this summer:

• Start an indoor garden. Your kids will enjoy watching the garden grow and marvel at the opportunity to incorporate it into dinner or a salad.

• Go fishing through Hudson River Park, where kids and adults can learn how to fish for free!

• Go berry picking. Summertime is berry-picking season, so take the little ones to a local farm to pick their very own strawberries!

• Head to the beach and collect stones and seashells, which the kiddies could later use for an art project.

• Have a picnic in the park and keep an eye out for bees and butterflies and talk to the little ones about how the flowers grow.

Notoya Green is a parenting expert and former family law attorney. You can read her blog at www.tripletsintribeca.com. You can also follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tripletsintribeca and on Twitter @NotoyaG.

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