Post-Pandemic Nature Fix - Places to reconnect with Nature 26 - 50
By Rob Butler
With the gradual easing of lockdown, we need something to shake off the cobwebs from a long confinement and reconnect with the natural world once again. While screen time is the easier, more popular choice, it’s important to set aside time for the outdoors. Finding time to go for a walk in nature is hugely beneficial for children. Researchers have found that time in nature can improve your child’s happiness, learning, sleep and self-esteem. Also, studies are consistently suggesting that kids who play outside are often smarter, happier, more attentive, and less anxious than kids who spend more time indoors.
With online schooling, lock-down restrictions and access to their friends only via gaming, it is safe to say that your child is spending a large proportion of their day in front of a screen. Don’t beat yourself up about it either - it has happened to us all. Yet, once the restrictions are relaxed further we will need to get our children out of a lock-down routine that serves a purpose but will be no longer required or beneficial. Prepare for a battle - as those devices, apps and games are designed to be addictive!
Let’s face it - too much time in front of the screen has increased dramatically since the pandemic., especially for children. It has become so extreme that many kids spend very little in nature and most of it indoors. Students I teach admitted to spending 4 to 5 hours a day in front of a screen on average even before Covid-19 and the lock-downs. If screen time stays the same then it will mean that this generation of children will be the first to have a disconnect with nature. This crisis already has a name: Nature deficit disorder.
Finding time to go for a walk in nature is hugely beneficial for children. Researchers have found that time in nature can improve your child’s happiness, learning, sleep and self-esteem. Also, studies are consistently suggesting that kids who play outside are often smarter, happier, more attentive, and less anxious than kids who spend more time indoors.
The W.H.O. has described the current situation as a crisis and is very concerned with children's inactivity and lack of time in nature. Here is a brief summary of how time in nature helps children:
Confidence - Letting your child choose how they play in nature means that have the power to control their own actions - it has a lot less structure than most types of indoor play. It builds confidence and responsibility. This is an opportunity for your child to try new things, to develop new skills, and test themselves in unique ways such as climbing a tree.
Responsibility - Being in nature entrusts a child to take care of the living parts of their environment meaning they’ll learn what happens to nature when it is destroyed, mistreated or not respected. Living things die if mistreated or not taken care of properly, and their time in nature will reinforce this.
Imagination and Wonder - Kids will naturally design their own games and activities, and approach the world in inventive ways. The questions soon start when kids are in nature, as time in nature makes them think and wonder about the earth and the life it supports. This will encourage them to find out more about the natural world and nurture learning.
Stimulation - Nature may seem less stimulating than Minecraft or Fortnite but in reality, it activates more senses—you can see, hear, smell, and touch outdoor environments. It also serves as an auditory sensory activity - identifying sounds and discriminating them will help hone their listening skills.
Exercise - A walk in nature will get the senses working and blood pumping, be great for their bodies and the completion of the walk will give children a sense of achievement. This is especially beneficial for kids who find it hard to focus or have 'ants in their pants'. Exposure to nature has been shown to lower the risk of obesity and decreases blood sugar and cortisol, both of which are also associated with obesity.
Stress Relief. A walk in nature will be a distraction to the everyday stress of school life and grades. Natural environments help with fatigue and the constraints of having to sit behind a desk and comply with a rigid schedule. Study results show that nature positively affects people’s mental, spiritual and physical health and promote a feeling of well-being.
As a Dad, a teacher and author of the best selling hiking guide to the Lisbon region, I am combining my knowledge and needs to help parents bond with their kids in nature. To get outside and have some fun in some awe-inspiring locations.
It’s time to get outside and have some fun in some awe-inspiring locations.
26. Parque Urbano Penhas do Marmeleiro, Cascais
In between Cascais and Malveira da Serra is Murches’s park. It has panoramic views from above the children’s play park. The trail down takes you to the stream and to an impressive limestone valley. It is possible to walk here from Cascais market, although the current trail ends at Alvide it will be officially extended which will also provide a link to Quinta do Pisão. There are wooden stairways making it both easier and safer to reach the top – giving you a good workout at the same time.