Dawn Green – Writer

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Never a dull moment

 

credit-wayne-s-grazio

Credit: Wayne S. Grazio, Flickr

The moaning cries of, “Mum, Dad… I’m bored!” are rarely, if ever, uttered by kids in Whistler. Why is that, you ask? Well, it can be broken down to one word, F-U-N. For kids, Whistler is an ultimate playground, bursting with opportunities for nature play and sensory amusement.

One memorable way to spend a day in classic Whistler-style is to get the kids on bikes on the 40-kilometre Whistler Valley trail system that links all the neighbourhoods in town. The best way to experience the trail is to pack a picnic lunch and head off with no set plan, and be pleasantly surprised by what lies around the corner. Alta Lake sparkles in the sun and invites sand castle building contests at Rainbow Park and the ice cream cone at Whistler Creekside to top off the day is completely satisfying.

The Adventure Group (TAG) offers up a fantastic nature experience on their aerial tree course (aptly called The Treetop Adventure) that features a mind boggling 70 different obstacles from balance beams to rope swings. This is a natural team building adventure and a great experience to share with family.

And why not try out the art of ziplining while you’re in Whistler? Ziptrek’s Bear Tour involves zipping down five ziplines, all the while enjoying aerial vistas above Fitzsimmons Creek and laughing with your kids. And if you’re not quite ready for ziplining, there’s the Tree Trek Tour which takes you on a canopy walk over treetop bridges and suspended stairways in amongst the lush old-growth forest.

The Squamish Lil’Wat Cultural Centre is also a must-see for families where interactive displays and guided tours tell the rich stories of the First Nations people of the region.

Even long after you’ve left town, be warned: a phrase that you are guaranteed to hear often and repeatedly from your kids will start off with, “Remember that time in Whistler when we…”

 

~This is an excerpt from an article published in The Province and the Vancouver Sun in August 2016


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Why ecological literacy is important for kids

I am delighted to feature another fabulous guest post from Ella Andrews – this one tells us how essential it is for our children to understand build a relationship with nature.

Why ecological literacy is important for kids3

Mother Nature is very important for our future. A major part of our future are our kids. We must teach them ecological literacy so as to make them learn how important it is to take care of the environment. Being introduced to nature from when they are little children will help develop in them a deep love and solicitude for their surrounding environment.

While young, kids explore and discover a lot of new things. We can help them expand their knowledge by showing them outdoor activities. The best way is if we have a garden on our property or take them to any of the nearest parks. Once we find a suitable place to play with our kids, we must do some preparations first. Playing outside may be dangerous so we have to do some efficient garden clearance first. Kids will be happy to see how plants smell and how the bees are alighting on them so take them on a trip in a garden that has lots of different flowers.

Once our kids see the beauty of nature, it is almost certain that they will turn into an adult who appreciates the small things and will take care of the natural world. Ecological literacy is important for our kids because if we lose nature, we will be lost too. Each living creature on the planet can’t survive without water and food and this is something that our kids must learn from childhood. Teaching them to take care and respect nature is maybe one of the most important lessons we have to teach them.

Planting some flowers will be very interesting to them, with this you can show them how to take care of something. After some time they will see the growth of their flowers and you will be surprised how satisfied they will be.

Another interesting thing for your kids will be for them to meet a gardener. A gardening professional will help you with not only the lawn care but also may help you with ecological education for your children.

Meeting with nature face-to-face, kids can see the different elements of our surrounding environment working together. Even doing some patio cleaning will show them how to take care of the world around them.

A good ecological literacy is something that is a must for every person in the world. As youngsters, we start understanding the importance of taking care of nature, and we can call ourselves decent people who know what is important for our health in the future. Many schools have classes that show the kids how to take care of nature. All the books and videos won’t educate kids on ecological literacy as much as looking at their parents doing some gardening outdoors and spending time playing in nature.

 


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Screen-time versus nature-time

There’s a sad trend unfolding in households all around us – while many of us adults can remember vividly the hustle and bustle of neighbourhood games on the street before shouts from mums came floating over kids’ laughter, announcing it was dinnertime, today this can often be a dramatically different scene. The streets instead are empty and silent. Where are the kids? They are indoors, hunched over their various technology, engrossed in screen-time.

Photo by Paul Rogers

Photo by Paul Rogers

Addiction to screens is certainly not a new concept but the research continues to pile up and should not be ignored. Evidence backing its nasty side-effects all point to the fact that too much screen-time can be detrimental to your health on many levels.

It’s gotten so bad in places like China that doctors there now consider screen addiction to be a clinical disorder. The documentary “Web Junkie,”  illustrates the tragic effects on teens who become utterly addicted to video games, playing non-stop for dozens of hours at a time. Many come to view the real world as fake.

As a result, special rehab centres in China have been established where affected teens are confined for months at a time, completely isolated from all media.

Internet addiction. Source: YouTube

Internet addiction. Source: YouTube

While this may seem to be an extreme measure, there’s no denying that youth all over the world are similarly affected by Internet addiction, where they are plugged in for far more hours of the day than experts consider health for normal development.

The American Academy of Paediatrics advises for children under two years to have no exposure to electronic media.

“A child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens,” the Academy said in its policy statement.

It also recommends that teenagers should spend no more than two hours a day looking at screens.

Catherine Steiner-Adair, author of The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age, agrees.

“We’re throwing screens at children all day long, giving them distractions rather than teaching them how to self-soothe, to calm themselves down,” she said.

“Kids need time to daydream, deal with anxieties, process their thoughts and share them with parents, who can provide reassurance.”

Ms Steiner-Adair added that parents must act before their kids get an unrealistic take on reality.

“Children have to know that life is fine off the screen,” she said.

“It’s interesting and good to be curious about other people, to learn how to listen. It teaches them social and emotional intelligence, which is critical for success in life.”

My gut feeling is that as this information becomes more and more mainstream, parents will react and do their best to help their kids by limiting their screen time despite the lure of using TV as an ‘electronic babysitter.’

Only time will tell but it is my greatest hope that instead, kids will get used to getting home from school and getting shooed out the back door to play outdoors before dinner, just like we did when we were their age. And that’s when nature-time as opposed to screen-time will develop into a far greater influence in their lives and time tumbling in the sand and climbing up limbs of trees will create long lasting positive effects in their lives.

So I’m backing nature-time over screen-time.

What do you think?

Imagination Grove. Source: www.slate.com

Imagination Grove. Source: http://www.slate.com


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Risky parenting – the debate

My friend and I debated this the other day, as we meandered in a wetlands, collecting rubbish at the insistence of her four-year-old. While her two daughters and mine galloped around, touched pricky bushes, tripped over and dusted themselves off again, we pondered what exactly risky parenting meant to each of us.

While it’s easy to talk about allowing kids to jump off rocks, take risks and be responsible, it’s  also so true that when you are actually a parent, and you’re actually talking about your own daughter or son, it’s a whole different ballgame compared to sitting on the sidelines and judging other parents for the decisions they make.

So while I do feel strongly that kids need to have more freedom to roam (think Free-Range kids) and not be faced with ‘helicopter parents’ always hovering close by, the thought of one day letting Jarrah hurl down a mountain bike track on her own or walk home from the library without me turns my blood to ice. That crazy strong protective instinct kicks in and I just want to shelter her from the world.

Photo: justinjensen/Flickr

Photo: justinjensen/Flickr

Yet, as Katie Arnold writes so eloquently in a recent article in Outside Magazine, at the end of the day it’s all about making responsible decisions for our children’s safety while allowing them to expand and grow.

“But we can’t slow our children down. Not really. Their whole purpose in life is to grow and change and need us less until they hardly need us at all. We can urge caution in the moment and good judgment over time, but we can’t arrest their development. At times we cheer their progress, at others we’re heartbroken by how quickly they are changing. Either way, it’s our job to help them grow so we can let them go. The hardest thing about being a parent is knowing where to draw the line between reasonable, healthy risk and careless negligence, between hands-on guidance and helicopter parenting.” (Katie Arnold, 2015)

And my friend and I agreed. We don’t sweat when our kids trip and fall, and getting dirty is cherished and promoted, so we feel we are on the right track. Will I still fret when Jarrah goes off on her first crazy wilderness experience on her own? You betcha, but the important thing is that I will be there to hug her when she gets back and share in her excitement, after all, that’s what parenthood is all about.


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New year, new perspective – update

creative-writing1Some of you may be wondering just what was that dream I alluded to which has since been dusted off and given a new life? Well, let me begin by saying that January feels like a lifetime ago given the remarkable and breathtaking changes which have become my new life. Besides re-visiting some old, incomplete writing projects and breathing new life into them, which is exciting enough by itself, I have also embarked on a new academic journey of sorts.

My focus this year is also on completing a one-year Masters program in Communications. It was a big decision and one that came up out of nowhere but one which also makes a lot of sense. I thought to myself, why not capitalise on my existing writing skills and explore this new avenue? It’s one which will hopefully lead to a role working with a non-profit organisation, managing their communications, both internally and externally. It’s an exciting field and I am thoroughly embracing the program, its teachings and all the possibilities that are unfolding along the way.

I won’t lie – it was a tough decision to make and there have been moments of adjustment for all of us in my family, but besides my new study, I feel extremely blessed to have found a sweet balance, where I can be at home with my one-and-a-half-year-old for two days a week, enabling us to continue our trend of nature walks in the bush, at the beach and at home in the back yard.

I wouldn’t trade those moments for anything.

 

 


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Let ’em out – a case for more down and dirty time for little ones

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I know it’s likely due to the fact I am a new mum, but I can’t help being amazed at the sheer number of articles out there preaching the benefits of good ole time in nature for our kids.

I couldn’t agree more.

For me, growing up on a rural property meant a full slather of nature at my door step – a duck pond complete with ducks and better yet, tadpoles to catch, a bubbling brook to sit by and ponder life,  a swamp to sink my feet into, and best of all, a forest filled with trees beckoning to be climbed and explored. There were days where my sister and I would literally be outdoors for the entire day, lost in our imaginative games, only resurfacing when our mum called out to us to come in for meals.

These experiences in nature molded me into who I am today and I so wish to create the same for my own daughter. We might not be living on a rural property (yet) but I have discovered how easy it is to make nature available through daily walks in nature reserves nearby where we pat trees, collect leaves and marvel at butterflies and ants, and playing in our back yard in the grass and getting her involved in our veggie garden and worm farm.

It’s all little stuff but it makes a huge difference in the lives of our children. They’ll get screen time as they grow up, I know I can’t hide my daughter from it, but I know that I also want her exposed to real life experiences in nature.

Speaking of which, we’re taking her for her first camping trip in a few week’s time. Stay posted for the after-camping update.

🙂

Read more here on the magic of outdoor kindergartens:

http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/07/let-em-out-the-many-benefits-of-outdoor-play-in-kindergarten/


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Embracing winter snow sports

nordic-skiing

When winter blankets North America in her white, wispy shawl of snow, many of us turn instinctively to hibernation-like habits to survive. But, as it turns out, we were meant to get out there and move. Just look at our ancient ancestors – enduring the howling winds and waist-deep snow of winter, thousands of years ago they turned to nature for inspiration and survival tactics. Observing the snowshoe hare with its over-sized feet, bounding effortlessly on top of the snow, the idea for a shoe specifically designed for snow travel was born. Made of white birch or ash wood and weaved with the hides of deer, the invention of the snowshoe dramatically altered the lives of these people forever.

During the course of centuries, the snowshoe was strictly necessary for all peoples confronting deep snows in winter, to enable them to hunt, trap and travel long distances. When French fur traders settled in what is now Quebec in the early 1600s, they were introduced to snowshoeing by the First Nations people. This allowed them to carry on with their trading throughout the long winter months, and from there the concept of snowshoeing spread out over the Northern Hemisphere.

Today snowshoeing is generally viewed as a winter recreational activity and a way to get back to nature, with the resurgence in its popularity acknowledged as a nod to the past. So strap on your snowshoes and explore the snowy terrain, where the only thing stopping you is your growing appetite after a good work-out in the snow.

And if travelling by ski is more your style, take on the thrills and spills, Nordic-style.

As for me, I would never consider myself a fearless Nordic skier, but I was feeling rather self-assured on this particular day in Callaghan Valley, B.C. Having glided my skate skis across virgin tracks, past snow-laden trees under dreamy blue skies, one measly slope stood between me and a steaming thermos of tea. I hesitated as two ski patrollers on their ski-doo waved for me to come down, but then brazenly pushed off. I nearly made it … then my left ski stopped co-operating and my previously graceful movements descended into an awkward struggle for balance. Sure enough, gravity won out and I face planted in front of my audience. I’ll give them points for not laughing, but I know underneath their scarves they were grinning. And I was too.

Blissful Nordic skiing and seriously exceptional snowshoeing take the cake in terms of the ultimate way to experience winter head-on. So the next time you peer out the window to the doom and gloom of winter, resist the urge to jump back in bed and pull the covers over your head and instead embark on a Nordic skiing or snowshoeing adventure. Guaranteed it’s a better way to get through winter, with the perk of staying fit too.

(Published December 19, 2012 in Greenster, environmental online magazine. http://www.greenster.com/magazine/snowshoe-skiing/)