When was the last time you went outside and stopped to smell the roses? Do you want to pass on to the next generation the joy and wonder of nature? Enjoying the outdoors seems to have become a thing of the past for many people living in urban areas. Yet, urban areas like Hoboken, Jersey City, Bayonne, etc. are all working to make nature more accessible to all residents. Fall is in full swing and apple picking, pumpkin picking, etc. are all fun ways to experience nature. Read on for a few more unique (and maybe more picturesque) ways to get involved with nature in your community.
It can be so simple: get outside! Too many kids spend time indoors playing on electronics and not enough time exploring the wonders of nature.
Experiencing nature is proven to:
- Support creativity and problem-solving
- Enhance cognitive abilities
- Improve academic performance
- Improve social relations
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Reduce Attention Deficit (ADD) symptoms
- Improve self-discipline
- Improve nutrition
- Increase physical activity
- Increase connection with nature
…just to name a few.
It can be as simple as a stroll through Church Square Park or a walk on the waterfront; climb the trees, see what lives under the rocks, take a look at the turtles sunbathing in North Hudson County Park. We can make awe-inspiring observations through many means without traveling too far.
Institute a Green Hour
Dedicate one hour a day to spending time outdoors. Encourage kids and yourself to spend at least one hour outdoors each day by making it part of the daily routine. Maybe it means pausing to listen to the birds chirping or keeping a nature journal. Try upcycling old coffee cans, food containers, etc. to create a container garden or build a larger garden if you have the space. Motivate kids to keep a “wonder bowl” to make physical connections with nature collecting treasures to observe and share with others. Even the tiniest critters may spark some creativity.
Adopt the “Sunny Day Rule”
If it is a sunny day, you better go soak up some vitamin D. We know all too well that feeling when winter is in full swing and there are no more warm sunny days to enjoy, so make the most of them now. Save the couch time and Netflix binging for the stormy days and go enjoy some fresh air while it’s here. Even on a rainy or snowy day, throw on some rain boots and experience the joys of jumping in puddles or bundle up and build a snowman. No such thing as bad weather: just the wrong clothes! Head over to one of the local boutiques like Hoboken Clique or Lido to suit up in style.
Take a Child Outside Week
Participate in Take a Child Outside Week. The week of September 24th- 30th is an annual event organized by the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences celebrating opportunities for children to have free play outside. Simple activities are provided in order for children to experience the natural world and all of its beauty and wonder. Partner up with neighbors or friends for even more fun. All activities encourage the use of the five senses to experience nature — listen, feel, see, smell, and even taste the world around you. Explore their website for more info on how to get involved and share your experiences.
Try Wildlife Photography
If you live in Hoboken, you probably have hundreds of photos of the NYC skyline clogging your iCloud storage. Why not mix in some photos of local flora and fauna? Photography is an activity for all ages and can be done right on your phone. If you are feeling fancy, you can spice things up with digital or film cameras. Slowing down to capture a snapshot may change your perspective of the way the natural world operates. Now is the perfect time to document the beauty of the changing leaves and the spiders in their webs.
Become a Citizen Scientist
Everyone can be a scientist. There are citizen scientists all over the world working together on projects that anyone can participate in by adding in data. Download the app iNaturalist and add photos of plants and animals you see on a hike or a family walk. Check frequently to see if any new projects are starting in your community, or start your own.
Resilience Paddle Sports on the Hoboken Waterfront offers environmental education programs as well as paddling lessons/tours of the Hudson River. Current citizen science projects they are working on include building eel mops to give glass eels (a critically endangered species) a safe home and creating castles for baby oysters to help increase the population of oysters to purify the water of the Hudson River. Adventuring with Resilience is a great way to explore the marine environment while enjoying a unique view of the Manhattan skyline and potentially participating in citizen science.
Read Books About Nature
If you don’t feel like getting your hands dirty just yet, reading books about the environment is a great start. Hoboken has many little outdoor reading spots where you can enjoy some peace amongst all the pavement. Visit one of the local bookstores, like Symposia Bookstore, or even the free Hoboken Public Library and read about all things nature. A fun book for the family is I Love Dirt! by Jennifer Ward, a great read for adults is Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, and an engaging book for kids is City Green by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan.
See More: Where to Go Hiking in the Montclair Area
Enjoying nature should not follow a cookie-cutter approach. Sharing your favorite stories of adventuring in nature is a great way to inspire the next generation to create their own memories with the natural world. Encourage kids and yourself to explore outside of their (and your) comfort zone to have a unique, unorganized experience in the local environment. It may make all the difference in the world!