Spending time outdoors is an important part of healthy development for a child. Unfortunately, the general trend has been for children to spend more and more time indoors, preferring television, youtube, video games or one of the hundred other indoor entertainment options. Over the past few decades, many studies have been conducted on the impacts of time outdoors on both adults and children. Overall, findings show a benefit to health – both physical and mental – as a result of time spent outdoors: physically active or not. For children, time outdoors has been shown to increase concentration abilities and lessen attention deficit symptoms, decrease stress and anxiety, helps elevate mood, helps with emotion, and even vision. Not only is outdoor time good for keiki but it’s good for the future of the planet as well!
Our global climate is changing at an unsustainable rate, which has the potential to alter the delicate balance of Earth’s ecosystems. Action can be taken to slow or reverse this change, but it is only through care for the environment that action will be inspired.
When asked why they invest their own time on the environment’s behalf, many adult environmentalists recall connections made to the environment as a child. Rebecca Lewis, Youth Education Specialist here at Pacific Whale Foundation traces her drive to care for the environment back to some of her earliest memories of family trips to the beach that always seemed to end a bit too soon. At age nine during her first ecotour with Pacific Whale Foundation, she found herself in the presence of some of her idols – marine biologists. Rebecca’s conversation with an onboard Naturalist during that family vacation in 2001, lingered with her for years to come as she pursued her own career in environmental science. With every hour spent outdoors Rebecca found herself not only asking more and more questions about what she observed, but also feeling a strengthened desire to protect the natural world around her. This desire ultimately led her to her current position, with the very company that made an impression on her all those years ago, where she hopes to instill a similar passion in our planet’s next generation of ocean stewards.
Any outdoor time is time well spent but it is also important for children, like young Rebecca, to experience the environment with someone who has knowledge of nature and how to respect it; here are just a few suggestions of how you can help your keiki experience the outdoors in a productive way that will help inspire them to be environmental stewards.
- Take a guided nature walk, often offered at National and State parks
- On your next beach visit, see what coastal creatures you can identify together
- Sign up for outdoor volunteer opportunities, like a guided trip by Pacific Whale Foundation to Haleakalā to pull invasive weeds (pacificwhale.org/volunteer-vacation/) or plant native vegetation with Auwahi Forest Restoration (auwahi.org)
- Send your kieki to outdoor/nature focused camps during school breaks. Our next Ocean Camp is Oct 7-11!
- Refresh yourself on cloud formations and incorporate Hawaiian names for various clouds, wind, and rain into your daily commute with your child