This week’s blog was authored by Kathleen Pyne, OTR/L, who provides therapeutic services to students at Kingsbury Day School.
In springtime, our surroundings tell us that new life can come from dormancy. Like the blossoming trees and flowers around us, we humans are living and growing beings. As we emerge from our winter hideaways, enjoying the warmer weather and spending time outside will enrich our souls as well as enhance our health.
Before basking in the sun (and pollen!), take some basic precautions. Allergy and asthma sufferers will want to reduce outdoor time when pollen/pollution counts are high, take necessary precautions and have remedies available to minimize reactions. Know which plants can cause allergic reactions and steer clear of any unknown plants. Sturdy shoes, water for hydration and adequate sun protection should be considered. It is also a good idea to assess the safety of your outdoor surroundings in terms of cleanliness, durability of any equipment, and need for supervision.
There is growing evidence that time outside is beneficial to our well being. When we are inside, visual and auditory systems tend to dominate. When we get outside, we have greater license to move and we can enjoy a visual array of shapes, patterns, shadows and light. We can look into the distance, which is more relaxing for the eyes. We can listen for the whisper of the wind, the sounds of birds singing or trees rustling.
Being outside immediately gives us a sense of the air against our skin, the contrast of temperature in a sunny or shady spot. We experience more than flat surfaces under our feet and the many textures and properties of things we can touch. If you are lucky enough to have a garden, a honeysuckle bush, or a fruit tree, you can taste nature’s freshness. The scent of fresh flowers and trees can bring the mind into more relaxed and inspiring places.
As we water the plants in our garden, or watch them take in the rain, and bask in the sun, we can consider how vital these same elements can be to us. Adequate water helps our bodies and minds function properly, distributes nutrition through our circulatory structure and rids our body of wastes. People who do not have the opportunity to spend time in the sun are often deprived of essential vitamins. Our interdependence with the elements of nature is also illustrated by the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide between animals and plants.Here are some activities you can engage in to encourage your children to leave behind their electronics, emerge from their rooms and enjoy what the great outdoors has to offer.
- Take a regular walk with your kids and notice any changes that the season has brought. Do a treasure hunt. Listen and look for colors, interesting plants and insects and other signs of change with the seasons.
- Look up at a small cloud and pretend to make it disappear with your eyes. This can be done by looking out the window, too. (The condensation of clouds makes them continually re-form).
- Ask your child do an outdoor errand or yard job or to check on the weather.
- Consider starting a garden in your yard or on your patio. Some easy outside plants that do well in the sun are chives, rosemary and lavender (critters tend to leave these alone, too.) Basil and mint multiply quickly. Have your children help water and tend to the garden.
- Visit a nearby playground or park with your children.
- Check out the programs and facilities at county or city recreation centers (www.dpr.dc.gov). Many offer classes and refurbished sports and fitness facilities. Some have community gardens or urban gardening programs.
For additional ideas or information, visit these websites:
Cultivating Plants from Food
Urban Agriculture: Events, Festivals, Workshops, CSA, Volunteer Opportunities
Parks, Festivals, and Other Outdoor Activities
Rock Creek Park Activities: https://www.nps.gov/rocr/planyourvisit/things2do.htm
Parks and Gardens in DC: http://washington.org/DC-focus-on/dcs-parks-and-gardens
Kenilworth Park/Aquatic Gardens: https://www.nps.gov/keaq/index.htm
Other Volunteer Opportunities and Advocacy
Quo, F. E., PhD, & Taylor, A. F., PhD. (n.d.). A Potential Natural Treatment for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Evidence From a National Study. Retrieved April 01, 2016, from http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.94.9.1580
Bratman, G. N., Hamilton, J. P., & Daily, G. C. (2012). The impacts of nature experience on human cognitive function and mental health. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1249(1), 118-136. Retrieved April 1, 2016.
Gregoire, C. (2015, December 1). Exposure To Nature May Reduce Crime, Strengthen Communities. Retrieved April 1, 2016, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/exposure-to-nature-reduces-crime_us_565c6e64e4b08e945febb4ca
Charles, C., PhD. (2010). Children’s Contact with the Outdoors and Nature: A Focus on Educators and Educational Settings. Home. Children and Nature Network. Retrieved April 01, 2016, from http://www.childrenandnature.org/
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