As a child I remember feeling like the summer was wide-open in front of me as I sat under the stars watching the fireworks on the 4th of July. With each lazy, summer day all my worries seemed to drop away as I swam in the pool, rode my bike, and giggled with girlfriends.
There has been a recent and enormous shift in the way children play in our society, away from unstructured outside play to the indoors. As a result, children’s opportunity for direct and spontaneous contact with nature is a vanishing experience.
As a kid who grew up playing outside, I yearn to be in nature and feel its positive effect on my physical and psychological well-being. So, while on vacation last week, I invited my three nephews to swim with the dolphins on Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. The magical experience included touching, petting, hugging, kissing, and being towed by these charming, fun loving, and clever mammals.
At dinner that evening, I listened as my nephews shared the details of our adventure with the rest of our family. They had that exhausted look that kids get from doing something unpredictable, physical, and exciting. I was proud of them for stepping out of their indoor comfort zones.
Soon enough their world will become narrow, academically focused, and physically restrained. However, for one day, all electronic devices were turned off and there was nothing to distract us. We experienced the cool feel of the Caribbean, the warmth of the sun, the thrill of touching a dolphin, and the love that makes our life journey together so special.