Thomas Riedmuller is one of the founders of The Hollies Centre of Sustainability
When I listened to the radio recently I heard about a shocking trend among young people – according to Dublin City University, just one in ten Irish teens have properly developed fundamental movement skills that they should have mastered by the age of six, such as running or kicking a ball. The American author Richard Louv directly links the lack of nature in modern lives to some of the most disturbing childhood trends, such as the rises in obesity, attention disorders, and depression – he calls it Nature Deficit Disorder.
If you connect those ‘dots’ you might wonder what could help. My recipe is spending time outdoors and interacting with the natural world. Outdoor sports can go a long way. Apart from that, I find a lot of enjoyment in learning about plants you can eat and use to make simple remedies…there is so much food for free out there. And then, looking after your own plants, even if it is only a small container garden in an urban back yard, can bring a lot of joy and sanity into otherwise stressful lives. I remember living in an ugly urban environment years ago. Learning to identify all the little plants that still manage to break through the concrete helped me to keep my sanity and maintain a strong level of connection to nature that many people don’t even know that they are missing.
At The Hollies Centre for Sustainability a team of us have created gardens, woodlands, ponds and an array of buildings made entirely from local and natural materials. In some of these woodlands children are being facilitated in so-called forest school activities…crafts and games that allow them to be active and outdoors in a safe way.
While it is important to allow children to experience the natural world that feeds and nourishes us all, adults have the same needs of ‘recharging our batteries’ with earth, wind, sun and rain.
‘Nature Connection’ is a new series of activities at The Hollies Centre. One in each season they are designed to help adults to gain a renewed sense of aliveness and healing. The next opportunity to join in is on July 2.
An initiative called ‘Mucky Boots’ homes in on the importance for children to have space to be wild. On June 10, an event called ‘Sticks and Stones’ highlights that natural objects need to be reclaimed for their beneficial effects rather than being connected to fears. With a bit of guidance, it is safe to be wild. More than that, it is essential for your health. Between July 3 and 6 this experience will be offered to seven-12-year-olds as a summer camp. A family camp is scheduled from July 21 to 23, with activities ranging from basket weaving to spending time with horses, fireside fun and foraging.
You might look at ‘natural play’ as a term that describes the way we used to play in the not-so-distant past – using existing features and changing natural objects and unused items into play features.
A West Cork-based team of people called Silva Build are taking this to the professional level designing and building playscapes in schools and other public places up and down the country. On June 24, they’ll teach a one-day workshop at The Hollies Centre about Building Natural Play-Scapes.
I’ve decided to be part of the new trend that promotes health by reconnecting with the natural world. Minimum time in front of screens, maximum time out of doors. Which trend do you want to be part of?
More information on thehollies.ie.