Saturday, 11 January 2014

Raising Outdoor Kids: Go on a techno-fast and let boredom works its wonders

"Go on a techno-fast. Research shows that multitasking can divide attention and hurt one’s ability to learn and create. Children and parents need a break, and nature is the best place to take it. Set aside times in the day and every week — or a whole week or more — to leave the electronics behind. Exit the virtual and enter the real. Spend a little time in the Cascades, your yard or even the English countryside. Your kids may complain at first, but they’ll come back from the break feeling better. They’ll notice it. So will you."

This was tucked away at the end of an article titled "Forward to Nature: Why a Walk in the Woods Could Calm ADHD, Make Your Family Happier and Deliver Your Kid to Harvard" by Richard Louv. In a nutshell, the article articulates the health and other benefits of getting children into nature: lower rates of depression and negative stress, reduced symptoms of ADHD, improved academic performance, the list goes on. If you're reading this, you're probably already aware of all this. (Us outdoor parents tend to spend a lot of time preaching to the choir about this stuff.) What really caught my attention was the section at the end of the article that listed easy ways to "Reclaim Nature." Go on a techno-fast was one of them.

As it happens, my teen-aged son is on day 6 of a school project in which he had to give up electronics for a week. After an initial increase the frequency and duration of fights with his little brother, he settled into a pattern of sustained boredom interspersed with shorter periods of fighting with his brother. So last night I handed him my old copy of Into Thin Air, and he actually read it. Reading on its own isn't new for him. He's always enjoyed books like Diary of Wimpy Kid or The Hunger Games. Age appropriate stuff. This was the first adult book I'd suggested he read. It was also the first non-fiction book, aside from kid classics like The Scoop on Poop (there are two; I recommend the newer one).

Then this morning he recommended that we go cardboard tobogganing again. This was new. Seldom does he suggest going out to do that kind of stuff any more. So we took the cardboard toboggans out and had a blast, even though the snow was wet and slow. And when the cardboard was too wet and bent to slide at all, we used them as forts and had a snowball fight. It was all fun, spontaneous and driven by the boys, not me.

And then, after we'd come in, dried off and warmed up, he went out and threw snowballs for the dog in the backyard for an hour. I don't know what suddenly got into him, but I know what didn't: two-dimensional digital stimulation. Or maybe I do know what got into him: boredom. Good clean old-fashioned boredom, and it was the best thing that's happened to all of us in a while.


  1. good post. kids are very happy. We like to camp but I'm not in to tenting anymore. I like to sleep in the back of the truck and the kids can sleep in the tent. Thank's for sharing.

  2. good post. I love this post, really enjoy when people understand how important outdoor family time is. I totally agree with you that it teaches children hard work equals good results. Lovely post.


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