More of us are heading outdoors to feel healthy and free in nature lately, particularly as the global pandemic has restricted our lives in so many ways. With more people out there enjoying nature, chances are, you've witnessed the selfie effect, or the quest of some social media users, not so much to take in the perfect dose of nature, but to take the perfect photo of themselves in it.
Nature has become the first choice backdrop for many Instagram users, all seeking out the perfect photo of the vista or natural feature— with, of course, the human placed prominently in front. If you're a parent who values a nature connection for your child, we hope you agree that it’s important to help our children appreciate the outdoors for what it is, rather than reducing it to a backdrop for a selfie to share on Instagram.
One simple way to help your children understand this, of course, is to resist the temptation to snap the perfect selfie when you are outside. Instead, show your children how to tune into nature when you're on a walk in nature together. Help them experience the joy of simply "being" in nature. Follow a meditation or tune into the sounds of nature whenever you take your children outdoors. Better yet, take the smart phone with you for emergencies but leave it off and bury it in your backpack.
If that just too hard, start by trying to resist the urge to take out your camera phone every time the view changes, or when everyone else is snapping away. We understand the challenge. But we really don’t want our children to see the outdoors as a backdrop for their online persona. We want them to develop a relationship with nature that is meaningful, rather than superficial, serving only aesthetic purposes. Because, as beautiful as nature is, it's so much more than its looks. It is full of deep, complicated, and amazing relationships for your child to discover, a life's lesson of natural history to learn and infinite critters great and small to notice.
One approach that we like to take when outdoors with our camera and kiddos to ensure the focus is on nature is a nature photoshoot. The magic of this activity is that you can it anywhere, from your backyard to a local park or even the tiniest patch of green space in an otherwise concrete jungle. As we are absolutely in love and appreciative of trees, we find they make great subjects. A tree can easily be overlooked as part of the background. But these living, breathing, lungs of our world need to be stopped and admired from time to time. Maybe your child has adopted a local tree or become a tree watcher already. Here’s another way to connect with an individual tree.
Encourage your child to see the tree from different perspectives by taking its photo from as many angles or views your child can find. Let their imagination and artistic eye call the shots here. A child often sees the world so differently than we do. They might focus on the tree’s leaves, its micro nature, its relationship with other features of the ecosystem, damage to it, lichens on its surface, the texture of its bark. They might be drawn to their curves, colors, or shape. Just let them at it. After they finish, help them print the photos in a collage. They might even want to create art from the photos, a study of a local tree.
Of course, your child can do a photoshoot for any organism is nature: a tree, a bird, a bush, a flower. The more grounded the subject is the better of course.