One of the great things about living in Vancouver is…
While this story is about fishing with a little girl, the important theme is the value of simply getting kids outside, away from monitors and phones and the terribly sad statistic that today’s children don’t wander more than about 300 feet from home by themselves—as opposed to previous generations when the average was more than three miles.
Paddling around Deer Lake in the middle of Burnaby, British Columbia, Bronny gets to fish for rainbow trout and breathe hours of fresh air. She learns to handle a fly rod and row a boat. She observes and learns about herons and mergansers and the differences between damselflies and dragonflies. She sees a big sky and drags her hand in the cool water and feels a spring breeze on her face. There are clouds to watch and bugs to swat and weeds to remove from a trolled fly. Her eyes focus on distant objects, like Canada geese and bald eagles, rather than the shifting pixels of a monitor held a foot from her face.
There are no fish this day. But there are memories and the fresh perspective of a life beyond her iPad and the internet. There is a newly acquired skill of sitting quietly, learning the slower rhythm of nature. There’s an afternoon in the boat, just she and the dog, to think and figure things out for herself. I like to think we’re charting new pathways in her brain that will give her courage and help her focus for more than a few seconds at a time.
Take a kid fishing. Go sit on a hillside and look at the clouds. Gather autumn leaves or start a wildflower collection. Go for a walk in a local park and see how many different birds you can spot. Don’t worry about identifying them, although that’s a great idea, too. Let the kids wander, alone.
What we must remember is that simply getting kids outside, in nature, is good for them. Studies show their stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces—which is true of all of us, not just kids. Kids are naturally more active outside, more contemplative and exposed to natural vitamin D. Perhaps most important, they’re getting to be…kids. Remember just being a kid, outside, wandering the neighborhood until the streetlights came on?