When I was little, my mother and father did a wonderful job of nurturing nature in my life. My mother was an artist who loved to paint pictures of bluebonnets and fields of wildflowers. My father loved to be outside and enjoyed watching and learning about animals in their natural habitat. Every Sunday night, we gathered in front of the television to watch Wild Kingdom while eating our grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. Mmmmm....
I've held onto the love of nature that I learned in my childhood and, as an adult, have enjoyed the peace and spiritual connection that I experience when I am outdoors and surrounded by beauty. From trips to the Canadian Rocky Mountains in Banff and Lake Louise, to weekend runs in my neighborhood near the lake, I find that my senses truly do come to life when I allow myself to relax and take it all in.
My children have followed my lead and, at ages three and six, have a passion for animals and natural beauty that I am so very proud of. Almost daily, one of my girls will comment on the shimmers on the lake, our garden beginning to bloom again, or the birds nesting in our birdhouse in the yard. They love discovering changes of the seasons. On a recent trip to Colorado, their favorite things to do were visiting a chicken house, riding horses near Pike's Peak, hiking at Garden of the Gods, and touring a wolf and wildlife sanctuary. The bonus was that we were able to enjoy these wonderful adventures with my father, which is where it all began 38 years ago.
Aside from my nostalgia and sentiment, there are many practical reasons to expose your children to the natural elements. For starters, being outdoors usually provides plenty of opportunity for exercise, which is something we all need more of these days. Exploring lakes and forest areas is a wonderful way to begin discussing things like pollution, habitat preservation and destruction, weather, erosion, conservation, and any number of scientific topics. Not to mention the emotional and mental benefits of unplugging from technology, soaking up the sun, breathing in fresh air, and allowing our mind to wonder freely, inspired by the colors, sounds, and smells that surround us.
Even in a big city like Dallas, there are many places for families to visit to experience nature: the Dallas Arboretum, White Rock Lake, Trinity River Audubon Center, Fort Worth Botanical Gardens -- even our own backyard!
My challenge to you is to think about ways you can nurture nature in your child this year. It's a gift they will hold onto and treasure for years and years to come.
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