My wife likes to keep our youngest, Ava, under what author Richard Louv calls "protective house arrest."
She knows our 4-year old ought to be free to indulge in unstructured play, to experience the wonder of the outdoors, but struggles to let go of the unknown -- tick bites, sunburn, skinned knees, dirty clothes.
Instead, my wife marvels at Ava's technological savvy, her adeptness with the iPod, iTouch, iPad -- anything with an "i."
Because neither one of us wants to raise an indoor child, we look for balance. It's not always easy, and I know we're not alone.
Research, like the Recreation Participation Report, suggests many of our lives are largely out of balance.
Louv, author of "Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from nature deficit disorder," agrees.
Essentially, he writes, the more hi-tech we become, the more nature we need.
And while the relationship between connectedness to nature and physical and emotional well-being is strongest in children, I believe everyone benefits from proximity to green-spaces.
Simply viewing nature lowers blood pressure and improves muscle tension.
Incredibly, this includes watching nature scenes on TV or any of our mobile devices.
Research evidence shows us the restorative effects of nature scenes occur in three to five minutes. In that time, we become less fearful, less angry, more calm.
Now, participating in outdoor activities--even better.
Gardening provides the regular physical exercise described in the prevention of heart disease, obesity, adult-onset diabetes, high blood pressure as well as the strength training important in the prevention of osteoporosis.
It's an activity that increases flexibility and relieves stress.
It promotes an increased range of motion, develops hand-eye coordination, improves motor skills and increases self-esteem.
Better still, this moderate physical activity improves our mood, concentration, sleep quality, self-esteem, and life satisfaction.
Louv's call to action to prevent against nature deficit disorder isn't hiking or rock-climbing, necessarily.
It's simply to connect with nature, to be more engaged.
The everyday residential gardens of everyday people are the most used outdoor space. It's where we have the most frequent contact with nature.
Gardening gives us a chance to be creative.
Consider the time spent planning the garden and researching different plants.
I like the idea of giving kids their own section of the garden. It teaches delayed gratification. It requires slowing down, and living in garden time.
Gardening allows kids to care for living things and to learn the cycle of life.
Equally important, kids develop a deeper understanding of our responsibility to the Earth. They become sensitive to the environment.
In the process, I believe they feel a greater sense of self-worth. Adults, too, experience a heightened awareness of the environment.
More than anything, gardening allows us to get out of ourselves, to focus on just the garden, not work deadlines, unpaid bills or unreturned phone calls.
Kids benefit immeasurably from playing outside.
Studies show they learn better, and their memory improves. They exercise better decision-making and problem solving. They develop a sense of independence. They think creatively.
Beyond the obvious physical health benefits, gardening gives purpose, and instills hope. Planting seeds engenders a sense of what's possible.
A resident of New Milford for 25 years, Shayne Newman founded YardApes, Inc. in 1990, having worked in the trade since 1987. YardApes, Inc. is an award-winning Northwestern Connecticut leading provider of residential and commercial landscaping services, residential landscape design, construction and maintenance.