Brooke.Jack.Camp Technology, media and a focus on structured play has produced a culture that essentially discourages children to play outside. In fact, studies are showing that our children's health and wellness has been negatively impacted by what is being called, 'nature deprivation'. (Visit the Children & Nature Conservancy for more info on this topic.)  The good news is, we can begin to reverse these effects simply by spending more time in nature… but many of us have either forgotten or never learned how to have fun outside.

We recently learned of three fantastic books for families wishing to experience nature together.  We love these books, not only because of the obvious connection between many of yoga's traditional poses, which are named after animals and other natural objects, but because the outdoors provides a valuable opportunity to step away from the hustle and bustle of every day life.  By simply going for a walk, sitting in the grass or finding a quiet tree to lean against, we are able to quiet the mind, reflect on ourselves, recharge our batteries, and connect with our families. These are all very important for our stress levels and overall happiness.

Ilovedirt Jennifer Ward's I Love Dirt! is written for younger children – we guess around ten years old or younger.  The book's cover promises "52 activities to help you and your kids discover the wonders of nature."  These activities range from experimentation, physical movement, observation and playful games.  Not surprisingly, we are particularly attracted to the activities that closely resemble the activities you might find in our yoga classes for kids, such as the grass activity in chapter one, where families are guided to grow their blades or grass and bloom like flowers, using large movement activities to mimic each action. 

Letsgooutside In Let's Go Outside, a follow-up to I Love Dirt!, slightly older children aged 8-12 are guided in similar ways, but with some more scientific, project and value-based lessons.  In this book, a child can learn to make music with blades of grass, acorns and sticks, grow fruits and vegetables as a lesson in local farming and sustainability, and much more simple activities to be done outside, like the chapter covering ten different varieties of tag (who knew?!).

TheGreenHour Finally, in Todd Christopher's The Green Hour, the author provides inspiration for families to spend one hour in nature each day, and includes ideas for unstructured play and interaction with the natural world.   A chapter on treasures from the sea guides identifies various beach objects while educating the reader on how and why those objects end up ashore.  Another lesson on going for a hike, gives parents practical advice for how to enjoy a family hike, including, "slow down," "know where you're going," "and "think small."  Let's face it, sometimes grown-ups need a reminder to see the world through a child's eyes, and this book provides spectacular information on how to do so.

Being outside in nature engages all of our senses, bringing us into the present moment.  We become instantly reflective, and literally grounded.  Sunshine encourages the release of feel good hormones and fresh air cleanses and refreshes our nervous system.  We can't help but be awed and filled with gratitude while outdoors.  We find ourselves more centered, relaxed and open…more connected to ourselves, others and this beautiful place we call earth.  For these reasons, teaching nature appreciation is an important part of our programming.  We couldn't be happier to have found Shambhala Publications' I Love Dirt!, Let's Go Outside, and The Green Hour to assist us in that endeavor.

What is your favorite activity to do outdoors with your family?  Share your answer for a chance to win an entire set of all 3 books!  One winner will be chosen from all responses on May 25th.  Good luck!