Remember being called in by your parent to come home for dinner or because the sun was going down? Most kids these days don’t know the same experience. In fact, children growing up now sometimes spend less than 30 minutes outside each day, while spending almost seven hours in front of an electronic screen. This societal shift can have a damaging impact on a child, such as increased stress levels, risk of obesity, and symptoms of ADHD, if they grow up without experiencing nature.
Recent studies show that exposing children to the natural world at an early age is a great determinant of how they will interact with nature in their future. We as humans need nature; it is a part of the way we evolve and grow. Exposing children to nature allows them to tap into the right and left sides of their brain at once because of the curiosity and creativity that comes with exploring the great outdoors.
Getting kids to experience and understand nature is vital to their development. A great way to get them involved in nature is through our National Park System. There are 417 national parks in the United States, spread across 84 million acres of land in every state and some U.S. territories. These parks may not always be the typical park one thinks of, as it includes monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and even the White House. Among those 417, seven national parks are right here in Michigan.
- Isle Royale National Park – Houghton
- Keweenaw National Historical Park – Calumet
- Motor Cities National Heritage Area – Detroit
- North Country National Scenic Trail – cuts through Michigan
- Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore – Munising
- River Raisin National Battlefield Park – Monroe
- Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore – Empire
One of these may be in your backyard and you might’ve never known it was a federally protected area! Take a field trip and show your child how exploring and learning about the outdoors has a great impact on their happiness and future.