Kids & Technology: Rediscover Nature

Let’s be clear: I don’t have kids. That said, we hope to be parents at some point and I hate to think of my hypothetical-yet-future children growing up without a good ol’ dose of Mother Nature in their lives.

What am I talking about?

Nature Valley {yes, the granola bar company} recently released a promo that’s been circling the internet. It popped up on my radar this morning and it damn near made me cringe. In fact, I think my face weirdly contorted a few times while watching it.

Heart wrenching….because it’s true.

When I was a kid back in the early 80s, the outdoors were literally our playground. My mom would kick us out on Saturday mornings and my sis and I would grab our Huffy bikes and ride a block over to our friends’ house. From there, our two-wheeled pack of hooligans viewed the world as our oyster. So many options!

Sometimes, we would ride down to the nearby elementary school and play at the park. It had a huge field with a fence, so it was a great place to kick a ball around. Or, when we were feeling the urge for the woods, we’d ride up to the top of our street where a small drainage stream existed. It was no more than three feet deep but the surplus of water lent itself to a veritable woodland. We built a fort among the trees and hung our purple-and-pink canteen on a branch. Had to stay hydrated!

When we were feeling entrepreneurial, our gang ‘o girls would walk to the city park and scour the gutters and sidewalks for aluminum cans. Our parents told us that we were allowed to keep any money that came from recycled cans. Score! Once we gathered a grocery bag full of aluminum, we’d ride over to the can bank located in the parking lot of Target. We’d laugh at the machine’s strange noises as it gurgled and crunched our cans, eventually belching as it spit back our money. We never made more than a few dollars, but it always made us happy.

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Occasionally, my parents would let us turn the garden hose on the front flower beds, creating a bit of a muddy mess. Happy as pigs in slop, we would sit down in the mud and “create.” Vases, bowls, teacups–it didn’t matter. We’d studiously mold the mud, intently focused on the details of our project. Once our creations were formed, we’d carefully line them up on the driveway where my dad wouldn’t hit them with the car. After a day of basking in the sunshine, we’d gather up our pottery and deliver it to our favorite neighbors. I vividly remember a mud vase sitting in a neighbor’s front window until the day we moved away.

The best days were when mom and dad would come outside to play with us. Since we lived on a corner, our front yard wrapped around. This made our house the default kickball yard! We all wanted dad on our team because he could clearly kick the farthest. I remember watching in awe as the yellow ball sailed over our heads and across the street. There was another time when dad wailed on a softball, knocking up a huge popfly. We all watched in horrified glee as the softball lofted into the air….and then crashed down on the windshield of my parents’ car. Whoops!

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Mom didn’t play kickball but she always took my sister and I outside to work in the gardens. Sometimes we would help her weed; other times we would merely complain. I loved it when her tomato plants got those fat, green caterpillars. She would show us how to remove them from the leaves of the plant and then squish them or drop them into soapy water. More often than not, my sis and I would squeal as we squished the big Hornworms between our fingers.

My point is this: not a single one of my favorite childhood memories stems from computers or phones or television or even movies. It wasn’t that we didn’t enjoy those things, because we did. But it was a rarity rather than the norm. Saturday evenings were spent as a family watching Walker: Texas Ranger and Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman. It was the one night of the week were the TV regularly turned on, and it was a big event. But it definitely wasn’t the only event.

Technology is the wave of the future, and I don’t doubt that. But I would hate for future generations to forget what it’s like to experience the outdoors rather than see it through a glass screen.

There’s just something lost in translation, you know?

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13 Comments

  • Reply Rachel @ Betty LIVIN at

    I also saw this video today and shook my head, I wanted to share it but was afraid people would get mad since I don’t have children and don’t know what it’s like. It’s a real struggle for parents to keep their kids off their electronics, especially when they (the parents) are constantly on them! I’ve had friends take away video games systems in the summer or cancel cable and only have movies in an effort to get their children outside.

    • Reply heather at

      Yeah, we didn’t have the accessibility that kids have now, but for me, we have to show them that being outside can be MORE fun so they CHOOSE the outdoors over technology. I think that’s the tricky part.

  • Reply Alyssa Lindsey at

    That is a SAD video. I have big concerns about this too – when we went to my inlaws, within 20 minutes they had the tv on and asked us what Dalton’s favorite show was. Um…he’s 9 months old. When we said he doesn’t watch tv, they acted all like “crazy daughter in law, corrupting our son with her dumb ideas again”. It’s not even that we don’t allow him at this point, he’s NINE MONTHS, he doesn’t care about the tv! I just can’t stand that default to tv all the time as a replacement for human interaction (luckily my husband has come a long way from how he grew up, with the tv on literally 24/7). I’m definitely guilty of phone addiction and I need to work on that. To some extent I feel it IS a different world and differences in childhood is unavoidable but there’s certainly a middle ground.

    • Reply heather at

      We know a couple who plops their kiddo down in front of the iPad every.single.night during dinner so they can have a “peaceful meal.” Drives me nuts. I get that sometimes, stuff happens and you just need that mealtime to collect yourself. But every night? You’re totally fostering an unhealthy addiction to that iPad. Why not save dinner time for a family-centric moment instead of turning all the attention towards a TV show?!

  • Reply Alyssa Lindsey at

    That was a really rambling comment, but I think you get the idea.

  • Reply Grainne at

    Great post…it makes me so sad to see my nieces and nephews so connected. We, like you, spent all day every day out in the forest near our house, only returning for lunch and dinner. I have the best memories from my childhood. Unfortunately the media has made parents so fearful of giving their children any freedom which is so sad.
    I would like to hope that if I ever had children, I would have them outside as much as possible. It’s a beautiful world out there…

    • Reply heather at

      I thought about that when I was writing. These days, you hear about families who get in trouble for letting their kids walk to school. We rode our bikes ALL OVER TOWN!

  • Reply Art at

    That comment you made about how NONE of your favorite childhood memories came from technology struck me as true to my life, as well. I definitely watched a decent amount of tv, but my best memories had nothing to do with technology. Perhaps we’ll be in the minority when we have kids, but I plan on having some pretty big tv restrictions in the house. I had been thinking about not having tv at all. I know that I don’t miss it when I don’t have it (I have not had cable at many different points during my post-college days), and I think that I’d like to have a family that doesn’t miss it. Interesting post here, and food for thought.

    • Reply heather at

      We have cable and it’s nice sometimes, but we’re definitely not reliant on it. I’m psyched we have it this week though, so I can watch the CrossFit Games 😉

  • Reply Amanda | Chasing My Sunshine at

    I think about the subject of this post all of the time. It makes me sad. I am so very far away from having kids, but I am working as sort of a nanny for my cousins for a month. They are 12 and 9, and already have a long list of activities including biking, hiking, camping, swimming, etc etc. So I am at least a little hopeful for the future. 🙂

  • Reply Christy at

    4 years ago I dropped cable. We don’t own a Wii or Xbox or any other video type games and seeing this only reaffirms for me that I am doing the right thing. I have extra kids over to play with mine every chance I get and take them on adventures as often as I can. If my kids ever say the iPad is their favorite fun thing I will throw it away. So glad my kids know the joys of fort building and playing in the mud. So sad for all the kids that don’t

  • Reply Chelsea at

    This video is everything. Honestly so glad Nature Valley made it and started the conversation. I can’t imagine what technology will be like for my future kids but I really hope we as a society can do some backtracking and be less dependent on it.

  • Reply Harold stinnette at

    The world has changed in so many way and this is one of the saddest. I guess I’m officially old because I don’t think we had video games when I was growing up. I remember pong, the “tennis” game when it came out and I remember playing videos again when I was around 22 lol. In between those was a lot of outdoor time and I’m so thankful for. I do believe, if given the chance, today’s kids can have the same fun, and creative outdoor experiences as in years past. They just gotta have that door to the outside opened for them.

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