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Using all the fallen leaf litter, branches, and pine cones that surrounded us (no picking live plants or flowers allowed!) , we spent the entire day constructing fairy houses at the base of trees along the forest floor.
That day we caught the fairy house building bug.
Since that visit we have built fairy houses in my parents’ front yard, on a beach and in National Parks.
Next month, three years after that fateful visit to that nature center, for her 9th birthday, my daughter is going to hold a fairy house birthday celebration with her friends at a nearby nature preserve.
Now that will be a magical party.
A few years ago, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service completed a 15-year analysis that recognized a disturbing generational trend. It showed future participatory declines of 16 percent among anglers, 11 percent among hunters, and 23 percent among those who watch wildlife. A study published in a National Academy of Sciences publication found that even though national parks remain popular, adjusting for population increases, park attendance is 70 million short of the 1987 peak.
Electronic media, TV, and video games are replacing “playtime outdoors” for our children. In general, children ages 8 to 18 spend more time (44.5 hours per week) in front of computers, televisions and game screens than any other activity in their lives except sleeping, according to studies by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The problem, coined as “nature deficit disorder” by author Richard Louv, is so serious that the National Wildlife Federation made outdoor nature education its top priority.
And why is this important for the environment and our communities?
Because we are at risk of losing a generation. These children could end up disconnected from nature while being connected more and more to their sofas. How will we ever be able to explain the need for clean water and air or the protection and preservation of natural areas, forests and wildlife when the closest a child gets to a river or forest is peering out a car window?
For our communities, the benefits of experiencing the outdoors with our children are immeasurable. Study after study proves the importance of outdoor nature education. Outdoor play is linked to lower rates of obesity and depression. A University of Illinois study even found that spending time in “green areas” reduced symptoms of attention deficit disorder.
As the famous environmental writer Rachel Carson put it in her first book, The Sense of Wonder, “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder… he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”
Fall is prime fairy house building season. It is a magical time. You should try it. All you need is a little time, a little child (or the child in you) and some leaves, branches, other forest floor treasures and your own observations and imagination.
by Pat Byington, editor of The Green Register
For more information about building Fairy Houses visit amazon.com/Fairy-Houses.