Chances are, if you are reading this, then you already recognize the value of interacting with the world outside. If you are like me, you may appreciate reminders and new insights about things you hold dear. Spending time in the natural world is one of the things that many people recognize as anything from “relaxing” to “vital”, yet we often fail to pause and reflect on what makes this so important. Admittedly, the reasons are as personal and unique as the snowflakes comprising a winter’s storm. However, there are universal threads sewing the individual pieces together that merit reiteration, especially when considering what we want to expose our children to, and what they may gain or lose.
I have always considered my childhood experiences to be the framework from which I developed my love of the outdoors. I was also fortunate enough to grow up in a time and place where I had a great deal of freedom. While my neighborhood was far from ‘wild,’ as a standard New Jersey rural suburb, it did have an element of spaciousness and safety that allowed me to roam free. Since most kids in the late 70’s and early 80’s tended to lean toward the feral side of the spectrum, it was not uncommon to travel the neighborhood from early morning until sundown exploring all of life’s happenings along the way. That was then, this is now. Richmond, California, in 2015 is not the same. I want my children to be able to have experiences that develop an appreciation of the natural world, reaping the benefits that enhance their well being, while still being a responsible parent. Thus finding safe and fitting places to go in this day and age is paramount to creating those opportunities. With a bit of guidance, the ability to create a sense of adventure and appreciation for the outdoors is still well within reach, especially in the Bay Area. The positive impact of the current decline in free range childhood is that parents can now play a more active role in influencing kids to get outside by organizing small trips and excursions. The natural result of this enables a heightened sense of family bonding that occurs when the whole family sets off to explore the world, whether it is on foot down to the neighborhood park, or on a drive across the bay. Some of the fondest memories are often formed by spending time outside with the ones you love.
In case instilling a sense of adventure and familial tightness were not enough to get you to start pulling out the maps and stuffing the daypack, here are some other compelling reasons to get you planning your next micro-adventure. First, getting the kids outside to play seems to enhance decision making skills and teaches responsibility. A fascinating article on risk http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/oct/14/risk-essential-childhood-children-danger, discusses how unsupervised outdoor time teaches children “how to make risk related decisions for themselves.” While my personal experience around playing with fire nearly burned down our neighborhood, the author does advocate for supervised fire lighting as a way to develop a healthy respect for the elements. The author recommends this in the context of a bonfire as opposed to my unsupervised experiment on the dry grassland. Your children may not care one bit that you are dragging them away from their playstation III to stimulate their creativity, enhance their ability to learn, and increase their focus. Yet, you can feel assured that you can defend your actions with excellent resources like Richard Louv’s ‘Last Child in the Woods’. Even The American Medical Association, otherwise known as the AMA for those of you on a first name basis, recently hammered the proverbial nail a bit deeper with its statement, “Unstructured play in the outdoors boosts problem solving skills, focus, and self discipline”. In short, nobody is saying “Children should be sitting inside in front of screens as much as possible to develop better mental acuity, enhance decision making skills, boost creativity, improve mood, and increase self discipline and focus.”
Thus, it’s come to this: the ironic use of technology as a means to inspire you to fully explore and appreciate the outdoors and pass it on to the important people in your life. We hope this blog can serve as a source of motivation to get outside, along with providing information and recommendations on places to go, things to look for, gear to consider and any other pertinent details to enjoy the amazing landscape of the Bay Area. We look forward to sharing our ideas and experiences with you, and hope to hear yours as well. Until then, get out and play!