When my daughter was about two years old, we lived on the 6th floor of a small apartment in Mumbai. I recall doing one thing every morning with her…point out to the crows and babble “kaw kaw”. The delight on her face is unforgettable. Most of us mums have done this with our children. Pointed out to birds, animals and flowers to let them feel, discover and enjoy nature in some form or the other. Now at thirteen, I can see my daughter hardly getting the opportunity to engage with nature because of the urban routine life we lead. For her, nature is limited to a few televised programs on National Geographic.
I increasingly felt that she was missing on this opportunity. I knew one thing – she needed to be amidst nature to understand it better. So last year, we decided to take a holiday to Corbett. A three day camp at Unhotel’s Walking Safari Lodge. The camp was meant to be for children and parents together. Getting into the details of the camp will not be fair…you need to go and experience it yourself! I can however share some pictures with you.
The take away for my daughter was immense. For someone who had to be dragged out of bed for school every morning, she voluntarily woke up much to my surprise. I could sense the feeling of intrigue in her and the rest of the kids who had come for the camp. We returned with lot of memories and I observed later the benefits of birding that I had discussed with camp leader and birding expert Sumantha Ghosh.
- Improved physical health
Being outdoors for kids improves physical health. City kids today are generally prone to a lifestyle that is spent more indoors that outdoors. A hobby like birding is known to prevent heart diseases and diabetes – both of which are related to childhood obesity. Obesity is not just a physical health issue, it becomes a mental health problem with decreased self esteem and confidence amongst peers. Birding involves hiking and walking leading to better bone health, exposure to good sunlight, better vision and alertness. Being a participative activity for both parent and child, birding is a great way to better physical health of the entire family.
- Nature makes you smarter
Birding helps battle depression and stress. Trying birding at regular intervals has shown a decrease in a child’s stress levels. Being outdoors makes the kids smarter. The activity involves reading the map, understand the geographies of different birds, migration patterns and such information that allows the child to naturally learn and develop. Listening skills develop owing to the conscious effort of hearing different bird songs and identifying them. They also turn to be more patient and analytical.
Birding opens doors for kids to know who they really are and what they might want to do. The activity opens doors to other fields where a child’s interest may lie – natural sciences, photography, art and writing. Besides, in today’s competitive world, a child’s resume that reads birding as a hobby always gets you brownie points! Birding develops a child’s sense of direction, self esteem and motivation – all of which are life skills that help them once they grow up!
- Better social skills
Social skills become better with birding as a like minded activity. There are more than enough places in India that are apt for birding. Taking holidays to such destinations become bonding experiences with the family and friends. Kids learn group behaviour, appreciate diversity and become more empathetic.
A greener environment for the future
Birding is the easiest way to sensitize kids to the environment. They say the passion for nature is formed in childhood and nature is an inspiration to many in their respective fields. Without huge expectations, an activity like birding exposes the child to the need of conserving our environment and with that sense in mind, our children will grow up to be sensible and sensitive adults.
The camp opened our eyes to many perspectives of birding but it was the inherent learning that we had which made a huge difference. Today when I see my girl trying to listen to morning bird calls, putting up a bird feeder in the balcony, I know that somewhere something has been initiated. As a parent, all I can do is promise her more such opportunities.
All pictures are Unhotel property.
The blog was first published in mycity4kids0