Welcome to Plugging Into Your Kids from Direct Energy. In this series, we will share ways you can spend focused time with your children – specifically by unplugging from technology. We want to help your family make a conscious effort to connect with each other by avoiding electronic devices and enjoying some real-life interaction.
Everyday life can be really hectic, especially if you have children. Not only do you often meet their needs before your own, but as overworked and overwhelmed parents, you often escape into your phone, the television, or elsewhere – just to get a break. But far too often, this leads to your children plugging into their phones, iPads, video games, television and other electronic devices.
If the entire family has turned to technology to relax, you’re missing out on so much time to connect with your growing kids. Beginning with my family, I want to help others commit to unplugging and connecting more with our little ones – and this involves the best playground of all, nature.
Before we begin: during these mindful moments, place your phone in your purse on silent (or on a shelf) and don’t check it for the duration of the time you spend with your child. As much as you want to capture the moment and share it on social media, not looking at your phone during this special time will silently speak volumes to your child.
The Importance of the Natural World
Studies show that children and adults don’t spend enough time outdoors. The lack of time outdoors is said to have grave effects on our emotional and mental health.
Doctors are now prescribing time outside and in nature for their patients. For parents with children that have been diagnosed with ADHD and other similar disorders, getting away from the screen and into the light, colors, and texture of the outdoors has shown to improve their diagnosis.
What better gift could you give to your child and yourself than the gift of taking them outside each day into the fresh air and the changing seasons?
We get it. Not everyone lives next to a forest, or on the coast, or in the mountains, and not everyone lives in a house with a backyard, either. But if you get creative, you can find ways to build that bridge between yourselves and nature, bringing it into your lives.
Remember when you were a child how big things looked? The small park up the road from your house or apartment might not seem grandiose to you, but it will to your child.
If you live in an apartment, you could consider buying a few pots for planting seasonal flowers. Even this small connection to the natural world will bring beauty and wonder into your child’s life. Together, you can select the plants, dig the holes, water the plants, and harvest the leaves or flowers.
For older children, look at the map and see where the nearest State or National Park is. By the time a child is 8, they should be capable of walking a few miles on a hike. The signs at the park will educate both of you about the natural landscape, and the walk is a time for silence, deep conversation, or creating space to share thoughts.
Leave the phones in the car, or if you must bring them along, turn them off. If the concept of heading into nature for hikes with your teenager is completely foreign to you both, it may start off as a challenge, but if you commit, this will be great for the both of you in the long run.
If you’re fortunate enough to stay at home with your young child, and they haven’t started preschool yet, organize your day so it includes at least a 20 minutes “nature walk.” This can as simple as walking into the front yard to check on the leaves each day. What do they look like? Are they changing colors or growing? Have the butterflies found their way to the garden yet?
Talk to your child about the different parts of the yard, such as the grass, the leaves, the trees, the clouds, and more. Walking with your shoes off is even better, as it allows the grass to massage the bottoms of your feet. This is a very simple gesture between you and your young child, but it gives you a moment to catch your breathe, and to be in the moment with your child who is changing by the minute.
If you are a working parent, instill the routine into your weekly life to spend an hour each weekend in the outdoors. It can be as simple as a stroller ride to the park, or having them help you with yard work. Eating breakfast on Saturday morning outside is also a fun way to start the weekend, too.
Vacations in Nature
When planning the next family vacation, skip the theme parks and head outside! There are plenty of crossovers between luxury and nature that can give you the best of both worlds. When the element of man-made rides, theaters, entertainment, and electronic distraction is kept to a minimum, you’ll find that the sunsets and sunrises can provide moments of calm clarity and discovery. Also, conversation and connection happen more easily while sitting around a campfire than in most other situations.
What’s your favorite way to unplug from technology and plug into your kids in the outdoors? Share with us in the comments section below!