Almost every weekend, during school holidays or spring break, we go out with the family to the forest. Since I was a little girl, I've always spent a lot of time in the woods! Normal, my father, now retired, was a forest entrepreneur. He prospected land, cut wood and sold it in small lots. My father, he's the kind of man who knows all the tree species, who has a sense of direction in an unusual forest and who knows each animal species and its characteristics. Lakes and rivers, he made me see a lot! When I was younger, I went up streams, rain boots on my feet and backpack. I returned all the rocks to discover the insects and reptiles that were hiding there. I caught frogs and small fish, observed turtles, beavers, hares and deer. We even operated a small family sugar bush for a while and had a log cabin, without running water or electricity. These are by far my best memories. Talk to my childhood friends who often accompanied us for a weekend, I'm sure they have as fond memories of it as I do.
Quite naturally I wanted to make my children know the same thing. A few years ago, my husband and I built, with the help of my father and other family members, a pretty log cabin with no running water or electricity on the banks of the Ouareau River. We did it the hard way! We peeled each of the trees that make up the walls and we put everything together ourselves. Children have learned that in early summer spruce and fir are gorged with sap between the tree and the bark so you can easily remove the bark much like peeling a banana. Now that construction is complete, we take great pleasure in spending a large part of our weekends and holidays there.
I have noticed over time that my children are easier to live there than at home. My oldest among others; Louis is an energetic, angry boy who is fueled by sport and physical activity. When he is bored and does not channel this energy, he tends to annoy anything that moves in the house. Surprisingly, when we are at the chalet it is quite another matter. He's so busy playing in the forest, discovering, exploring that he doesn't annoy anyone. I also observed many more collaborative games, good relationships, great projects and late evenings cut short by extreme fatigue. When we are at the chalet, I suddenly have more time for myself since the children take care of playing freely alone. So I started to take an interest in this relationship between children and nature. I have read a few books, The last child in the wood by Richard Louv and Lost without nature François Cardinal to name a few and I became aware of many things. Besides, every parent should read François Cardinal’s book. Easy to read, it brings a very good awareness of a host of things.
Our children need to channel their energy and their stress since, as Sonia Lupien, director of the Center for Studies on Human Stress and scientific director of the Fernand Seguin research center attached to the Louis-H Lafontaine Hospital, puts it so well, children's stress builds up, like a kind of"Energy in the belly". Casually, our children are experiencing small or great stress every day, whether it's a bickering with a friend, a bad grade, an argument with parents or even a divorce. If the child "Do not lose it, this energy is in the brain that it will be found, which will have negative effects on its ability to learn, to memorize, on its emotional regulation. " The relationship with nature is therefore extremely important, because it is in nature that the child is best placed to play freely and channel this energy. Like my great Louis, who feels so good in the forest and who has less need to annoy to evacuate his big ball of stress and energy. A study published in 2008 in the Journal of Attention Disorders found that a 20-minute walk in a green space allowed children with ADHD to regain their ability to concentrate much closer to that of children without any disorder. Andrea Faber Taylor, co-author of the study and professor at the University of Illinois, said he had "found that the effect of a dose of nature was as pronounced, if not more than a dose of medication. "
Do you live in the suburbs and do you find nature difficult to access?
Without realizing it, nature is gradually disappearing from the lives of our children. Unfortunately, this disappearance is not without impact. Their mental and physical health is affected in a major way. The increase in obesity and and ADHD cases are prime examples. Know that you do not need to isolate yourself in the depths of the wood without electricity and running water as we do to reconnect with nature. In fact, nature is your backyard or the park around the corner. But if you can afford it, take advantage of the holidays to get lost a little further or a little longer:
- Rent a chalet
The chalet rental sites are numerous, from Cottage for rent at Airbnb. It is very easy to find a place where you can escape and where your children can play freely. Play without structure and too much parental supervision. Invent a world, make a cabin with fir branches, in short, give free rein to their creativity.
- Visit a natural park
- Visit theEcomuseum
I discovered this extraordinary place during spring break. It’s the perfect place to discover Quebec’s animal species. In addition, it's only 30 minutes from Montreal. As François Cardinal puts it so well in his book, "Studies show that children can call Bakugan and Pokémon by their first name, but are unable to name trees, birds and plants by their name. " I intend to visit this place several times a year so that my children can see for themselves how animals change with the seasons. Some even sleep squarely all winter. The place is easy to access, the animals living in a natural environment seem well treated and healthy.
- Make a garden
It is a very good way to develop your child's knowledge both in terms of nature's contribution to our food but also to the food itself. A small garden or even a few pots on the balcony of your accommodation can do the trick.