A few years ago, I read an article about how today’s children aren’t getting outside enough. It surmised that hectic family schedules and video games were contributing to the problem. It also pointed out that in the days before computer and video screens dominated kids’ free time, obesity and diabetes weren’t as prevalent among youth as they are today.
A coincidence? Maybe. But it’s certainly true that spending time in the outdoors has a lot benefits — including spiritual ones. I’m not talking about trips to the playground or sporting events — which certainly are beneficial, too — but rather spending some carefree time in the outdoors to explore and learn more about the world God created.
In that spirit, my wife and I have started taking our 11-year-old son on evening nature walks around our neighborhood. We’re lucky to live in a place near St. Paul with a number of walking trails that wind through marshland and other undeveloped areas.
I dug out some old bird and wildflower field guides, and we hit the trails seeking to identify the plants and animals we saw along the way. My son — an admitted video game lover — had a great time trying to match up what we saw with the pictures and drawings in our guidebooks.
On one evening walk, we saw cardinals, black-capped chickadees, American goldfinches, red-winged blackbirds, prairie sunflowers, wild bergamot and Sullivant’s milkweed to name just a smatter of the flora and fauna along our route. We also heard what sounded like thousands of frogs singing together along the shore of a small pond.
If you live in an urban area, you might try a walk through the local park. If you can travel, spend a day at a state park or wildlife refuge. For ideas on places to visit in Minnesota, go to ExploreMinnesota.com. And, if you want to read more about the outdoors from a faith perspective, visit my Catholic Spirit colleague Dave Hrbacek’s blog, Faith Outdoors.
Summer is a great season to spend time outside, have fun and learn more about our natural world. Don’t miss the opportunity.