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Getting comfortable with nature – Good Parenting

Headshot2011Welcome to Good Parenting, our weekly online series on parenting advice with Annapolis, Maryland, expert Dr. Deborah Wood.

Getting Comfortable with Nature

Dear Dr. Debbie,

I grew up in an air conditioned no-pets-allowed apartment in the city. We rode the elevator to get to our car in the garage. On the rare occasions we might be walking outside, my mother warned us not to touch anything and had my sister and me “wash off the germs!” as soon as we got back inside. My husband, on the other hand, had lots of outdoor adventures – playing in woods and creeks to his heart’s content.

Although we live in Annapolis where there are lots of green spaces, I’d rather stay inside where I can control the temperature and do a reasonable job of keeping my three children out of harm’s way. My husband is trying his best to convert me and raise our family not only to be comfortable with nature, but to actually enjoy it. It’s not working for me. The one time we went camping, I slept in the car.

Can you suggest some reading or classes I can take to get past the deeply rooted resistance I have to insects, weather, perspiration, dirt and such? Ick.

Just Show Me a Picture



Click here to read last week’s tidbit parenting advice about high school start times.

Dear Prefers the Picture

Yes. Books and classes are a great way to build up your confidence and comfort. The more you know about the critters and plants, the weather, the moon, and how it all amazingly works together, the more you will appreciate how awesome Mother Nature is.

Children’s picture books are an easy way to get started – and you can read them with your children indoors as well as out. Plenty of nature themes abound. Read about caterpillars turning into butterflies in Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Lois Ehlert’s Waiting for Wings. A Handful of Sunshine by Melanie Eclare chronicles the journey from seed to sunflower in a few short pages with brilliant photographs. The classic Gilberto and the Wind by Marie Hall Ets shows how the wind can be a boy’s playmate. Maurie J. Manning’s fresh approach to an old folk song, The Aunts Go Marching reminds us that there’s no such thing as bad weather (short of a lightning strike) – you just need appropriate clothing! Your local library might be featuring such themes of nature as Spring unfolds itself.

A great book for adults on the subject of how important it is for children to experience nature is Richard Louv’s The Last Child in the Woods. http://richardlouv.com/books/last-child/. This book inspired the current movement to bring children back to the benefits of outdoor play. Louv wrote the forward to Jennifer Ward’s book, I Love Nature: 52 Activities to Help You and Your Kids Discover the Wonders of Nature. Todd Christopher’s title: The Green Hour: a Daily Dose of Nature for Healthier, Happier, Smarter Kids, sums up the reasons that nature should be part of every childhood.

If you have the motivation to overcome the nature shortages of your own childhood for the sake of your children, there is hope. There are many wonderful nature programs in the area that you can attend with your children.

Since these programs are geared toward basic introductions, the facilitators will know just how to work with your level of expertise and comfort level.

Right in Annapolis, you can take a weekly nature walk with a guide from Chesapeake Children’s Museum observing the wildlife of the woodlands and wetlands at the head of Spa Creek. Indoors there are live animal exhibits and related hands-on activities.

In Annapolis we are also fortunate to have Sandy Point State Park on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. Family programs are held every weekend from Memorial Day through Labor Day at the new Nature Center. The park also has summer programs for children of different ages that might welcome an extra adult to tag along. Registration information and other information about the park’s hours and fees can be found on the Sandy Point State Park’s webpage.

Other Maryland state parks are not too far to drive to, especially as we move into longer and longer days. Some have Junior Ranger programs (ages 7 to 14) or other family events throughout the year.

Programs on various topics are offered at Jug Bay Wetlands, in Lothian on the western edge of Anne Arundel County. Check the Jug Bay Wetland park’s webpage to see if there is something for your children’s ages on the schedule.

And see what’s happening at other parks around the county.

Just south of Annapolis, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater offers public programs for children and families. In addition to the typical nature hikes and nature programs, there are guided canoe trips on the creek for ages six and up.

About a 30 minutes’ drive north and west of Annapolis you can get to the National Wildlife Visitor Center in Laurel. They have a full schedule of family activities and many programs for homeschoolers during the week.

Go ahead. Dip your toe in. There is a world of wonders awaiting you – and your family – when you become better acquainted with nature.

Dr. Debbie

Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She holds a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at drdebbiewood.com.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at Betsy@jecoannapolis.com

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