By Communications Specialist Laura Hope
This article was published in the September 2017 issue of Island Parent.
Just over one year ago I was hit with the full impact of the necessity of nature in my life. I was less than a week into my life as a new mother, recovering from a long labour and a c-section, and the only fresh air I had breathed was that from the hospital doors to my car.
Getting outside seemed like an insurmountable goal. It wasn’t just the physical pain of recovering from surgery, but it was all the unknowns related to taking my son outside for the first time. How many layers does he need? Will he be too hot? Too cold? Is it too sunny outside for a newborn? What if he gets hungry?
It took my husband and me all morning to get ready. Yet, when we finally stepped outside into the crisp, fresh air and the sharp autumn light, filtering through the orange and browning oak leaves that lined our street, I felt they were all I needed to get me through my recovery and journey into parenthood.
My relationship with nature came into sharp focus in the months that followed. Not only did I feel the need (and desire) to get outside with my son as often as possible, but it also crystallized my commitment to doing all I can so that he can inherit a healthy, safe, livable planet.
This October I’m putting that commitment into action by participating in October Outdoors—an action-based campaign organized by Sierra Club BC. October Outdoors is the environmental equivalent of Jump Rope for Heart. Participants commit to completing a daily outdoor activity every day for the month of October and gather pledges to support their action.
All funds go to Sierra Club BC, an organization doing the big picture work of defending nature and confronting climate change. (Full disclosure: I’m happily employed by Sierra Club BC!)
I know that kids today are spending less time outdoors than their parents did and that, because of this, their mental and physical health are suffering. I know that pediatricians are now recommending zero screen time for children under the age of two but I can’t deny that my son is mesmerized by my smart phone because he sees me staring at it too often throughout the day.
I also know that a childhood spent in nature sets up a lifelong commitment to defending the natural world, and gives children the best chance at success by improving mental and physical health. I want that for my son.
Sometimes it still seems like a lot of work to get outside with my son and I ask myself the same questions I did a year ago: is he dressed right? Will he get hungry? Did I pack everything he needs? But when I remind myself of how the simple act of going outside benefits my son, myself, and my planet, it doesn’t seem so difficult.
That’s why I’m committing to get outside with him every day in October, rain or shine. By doing so I know I’ll be setting my son up for a lifelong relationship with nature, I’ll be giving him better physical and mental well-being, I’ll be modeling to my friends and family the benefits of getting outside, and I’ll get to raise funds for an environmental charity while I’m doing it.
You have undoubtedly noticed some of the benefits of time spent in nature with your children, so why not make it a commitment for one month? Commit to 31 days of outdoor time with your family and I guarantee you will all be happier and healthier for it.
There are so many wonderful activities to do with children in and around Victoria, but even simply walking to the nearest park, staring at the clouds from your backyard, or finding the nearest stand of trees and letting your child play will make a difference.
Let October be the month you make a difference for your family and your planet. And be sure to share photos of yourself outside using the hashtag #OctoberOutdoors.