As 2020 played out, we saw the whole world get turned upside down. Suddenly what was taken for granted – children playing in parks, people being outside, human interaction, school, and even people’s smiles were all turned into things that could easily be taken away - a change that surely no one wished for. Change asks us to grow, but sometimes instead of grow, we shrink in the face of it. When the change imposed by COVID type scenarios strips away basic human needs - sunlight, fresh air, uninhibited play, social interaction, affection from other humans, physical contact and education, we must question how we are to protect our children, families and our communities from degrading in the face of these newfound threats to our physical and mental health. What can we do to remedy these losses in our everyday life?
When children go from time spent in a classroom with a live teacher to working online over a computer or an ipad – this is not a better change. It is a shrinking of our humanity. It is a shrinking of childhood, into something less dynamic, less real, less useful. Sure, the convenience of modern technologies provides an opportunity to learn at a distance, but it does not replace real, in person learning.
Human to human interaction is surely coming to an all time low. Human interaction is an intrinsic part of childhood and human life that contributes to happiness, social skills and connection. The American Association of Pediatrics released a 2021 report, stating that “Children were 0.00%-0.19% of all COVID-19 deaths, and 10 states reported zero child deaths”. With figures as low as this, can we justify shutting down schools and amplifying the time spent on devices and indoors?
Many children live in homes with domestic abuse and school is the only refuge from the turmoil of home life. COVID has put much added pressure on these already low functioning households. Electronic device use has statistically more significant downsides for health, happiness and learning – than a case of COVID, where children are only likely to be hospitalized 1.3% of the time. When some of the world's richest people and it’s biggest organisations are supporting harsh blanketing lockdowns, there is little we can do to change the way things are being done. The lockdowns do not select citizens for likeliness of risk, but simply force everyone to stay home. These policies are doing damage. Here is a list of things that can seriously interrupt a child from developing properly. - Lack of routine - Lack of direction - Lack of sunlight - Lack of movement
-Lack of diverse human interaction - Lack of free play in Nature - Time spent on devices playing games - Watching media with no purpose - Time spent without peers - Improper nutrition All of these factors for declining health in children are being increased through COVID lockdowns and COVID measures. You might say “but what can we do? Lockdowns can go on and off forever!” I do not write this for you to feel hopeless – I want to share this with you, so that we can look our issues in the eye and come up with real solutions. Sometimes amid “trying to educate our children” we lose touch with what childhood is ACTUALLY about. Childhood is not about teaching maths, English and sports so that our child can become some A-grade student. Childhood is about growing, changing, absorbing, being and becoming. Our culture loves doing, but children need time spent in the being. When our world is full of electronic noise, the next thing to do and the next thing after that, we tend to lose touch with what life is about. Simple solutions can be found for the challenges we face. Getting away from the noise and nourishing our children with real experience is possible – not just stimulating them with purely intellectual or brainless entertainment. But simple solutions take commitment, they cannot really be purchased or given. Commitment to Nature and commitment from ourselves to connect to the natural world is what it will take. The deeper we connect to the world of technology and society, the deeper we will have to connect to nature, to balance the toxicity of the modern world. If we don’t connect to Nature and our own Nature, we become lost, depressed, anxious and lack the creativity to live a life worth living. None of us want that for our children OR ourselves. Many parents have found 2020 and 2021 to be challenging years, because they had to start playing the role of a teacher as well! As if modern parents didn’t already have enough on their plates…
Yet within that challenge , many parents have found their feet in the home-schooling environment and love the amplified connection they have found with their children. Other parents and children have not done so well during 2020 and 2021 – and there has been counts of stalling, complacency and over-reliance on the digital world to raise their children. Either way, parents are always looking to do better – they just might not always have the tools or energy to be able to do so. But change for our family starts with the parents – so we must choose to do better each day. COVID, lockdowns and obtuse governmental methods for dealing with society are likely not going anywhere anytime soon - but in the meantime here are some ways we can balance the effects of COVID for parenting, mentoring and teaching in 2021. - Have the lesson in the backyard. Even if the class is to be done on a laptop or tablet – setup an outdoor office, or under-veranda computer spot. This will get you and your child more light, and air!
- When using screens – Use blue light filters like https://justgetflux.com/ and blue blocking glasses like these https://www.blockbluelight.com.au/collections/kids-blue-light-glasses. This will protect young eyes (and your eyes!) from harmful blue light that is emitted from all LCD screens and indoor bulbs.
- Go for a daily walk. Even if it is around the block and if you do not want to go! Go outside and walk. See what games you can play along the way - I spy, don’t walk on the cracks, throwing a ball to each other, or seeing what plants you can find along your way. Make it fun. Get in the woods or the bush if you can, but don’t use an urban environment as an excuse to not get outside. Walking is a vital part of human development and should be done daily for a variety of reasons!
- Work in the garden. Plant seeds, start a compost, grow indoor plants and care for them, start a succulent collection. By playing with the plant world, we can learn so much - Maths, English, feeling, observation, cycles, timing and so much more. Bringing Nature into the home more during these times is super important for health and connection.
- Get to bed on time ! Humans love regular bedtime – especially children. Reduce blue light around and before bed. Settle into a natural rhythm.
- Use Nature as often as possible as the source of learning. Especially for Early Learning
- interactive play is extremely important. Using natural specimens, collecting elements from nature, and using nature as a source of learning is a great way to fulfil the needs of a curriculum. - Use media from Nature. Rather than watching the teletubbies or some other silly cartoon – use nature documentaries and TV shows as a way to bring more Nature into our children’s lives.
- Play, wrestle, and do physical play activities with our kids – or provide the space for them to do so.
- Create excursions into the wild on a regular basis. Our contact with the pure wild is shrinking, especially in these times. This is a crucial part of development – to feel connected to something bigger than ourselves and our own problems. Getting into the wild should be a prized and regular part of our yearly routine – and it is the parents and teachers that must make this happen. So do not lose hope for teaching and parenting in 2021. We can come up with creative ways to keep our children connected and developing in the right ways. But now is not the time to take our hand off the wheel and hope that the government will create more opportunities for our healthy development. History says - they wont - and they will likely throw money at things that don’t mean much to the real, physical and emotional development of our children. We must take that into our own hands, by making a point of connecting our children to nature, each and every day possible. For a deeper dive into nature connection and how we can structure it into our lives to bring more joy, healing, learning and development to our children, book your FREE Nature Discovery Session with Asher Cloran @ liferocks.com.au Or buy the book Connecting children to nature @ liferocks.com.au