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Keeping your Birdbath Clean

Keeping your Birdbath Clean

Why You Should Maintain your Birdbath

Maintaining a clean birdbath is essential for the health of visiting birds. Birds that bathe in the water may leave behind dirty feathers and droppings, which can make the birdbath increasingly unsanitary and filthy for other visiting birds. Dirty and stationary water also attracts mosquitoes, which can carry the West Nile virus and transmit it through their eggs, which they lay in the bath. Changing the water every day or two can help prevent the spread of diseases as well as algal growth, which forms a lot more quickly when the water is not changed frequently.

How to Maintain your Birdbath

There are many ways to ensure that your birdbath is set up correctly for the birds. Placing the bath in the shade can help keep the water cool and fresh, especially in the summer. Having the bath near feeders or woody brush and branches can provide a place for the birds to preen, however keep in mind that the birdbath should not be directly under these as the debris would get into the water. Likewise, having some running water can make the birdbath more attractive and help prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs in the water. This will minimize the chance of disease spreading to the birds and other animals. You should ideally be changing the water in your birdbath every couple of days, and cleaning it 2 or 3 times a week, or when you begin to see some discolouration in the water. The first step in the cleaning process is to empty the bath of old water, and to remove any debris that may have fallen into the bath. Next, using a high-pressure hose, or just a normal hose, spray the bath until most of the dirt is removed. If there is any additional dirt left on the bottom, then a stiff brush or wire wool with a cleaning solution can be used to scrub the rest of the dirt and algae off the bottom. However, instead of using bleach to clean the birdbath, consider making a solution of one part distilled white vinegar to nine parts water. If the birdbath is especially dirty, then soak the bath with the vinegar solution for a couple of minutes, making sure the bath itself is covered so that no birds attempt to drink from it during the cleaning process.

don't forget!

For best practices, it is best to remember to keep the birdbath full, keep it out of the way of falling debris, keep it in the shade, and to remove old stagnant water and replace with fresh and clean water. These methods will help you be a good host to backyard birds, as well as help prevent diseases from spreading, so you can enjoy bird watching all summer long!

Ways to introduce more birds, bees & butterflies into your garden  

Ways to introduce more birds, bees & butterflies into your garden  

From bees to butterflies to birds, pollinators are an important part of our ecosystem. They provide billions of dollars worth of produce and agriculture to the Canadian economy, and help maintain healthy ecosystems and plant diversity. Unfortunately, many important pollinators, such as bees, are in decline mainly due to habitat loss and destruction, pesticide use, disease and infection, and climate change.   Here are just a few ideas of how you can create a pollinator-friendly garden this summer to encourage pollinator diversity and abundance! 

Include Flowering and Native Plants in your garden

Include a diversity of different flowering plants in your garden to maximize the visitation of a variety of pollinators. For example, milkweed is crucially important for the Monarch butterfly. There are many different species of milkweed that you can plant in your garden, such as the common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) or the butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa). On top of these plants, consider planting a variety of native nectar flowers, since Monarchs, as well as other pollinators, require nectar as a food source.  Think about providing nectar throughout many seasons! A good idea for your pollinator garden would be to have a variety of flowering plants that flower at different times of the year, therefore providing nectar throughout the season! Some pollinator friendly plants include lilacs (Syringa vulgaris), red clovers (Trifolium pratense), and Phlox species, as well as fruit and vegetable plantsGrowing these plants in groups of three to five help attract pollinators to your garden. 

Become a host for bees with a bee hotel

If garden space is an issue, consider building a “bee hotel. This will hopefully attract wild bees to your home, as well as ladybugs and wasps. These hotels, or nests, provide a safe nesting site for pollinators. Combining these with flowering plants increases your chances of having pollinators visit your garden! Read this to find out exactly what you need to do!

Consider the environment 

When creating your garden, some key things to consider would be do these pollinators have a place to rest? Water sources are an excellent feature you can add to your garden to accommodate wildlife. Ponds or small streams are excellent for small invertebrates. As well as bird baths can provide adequate water for birds and insects. Butterflies like to bask in the sun, so consider laying out a few rocks and stones where the butterflies and perch. 

Build a bird feeder

And while you’re at it, consider building a bird feeder to attract birds to your garden! Make sure to place the feeders near trees and shrubs in order to provide shelter for the birds. To maximize the diversity of birds, put out a variety of feeders and food. For example, finches prefer hanging feeders with individual perches and prefer sunflower seeds. These seeds also attract cardinals, juncos, chickadees, and nuthatches! Suet is another great option since it is high in energy and fat, and therefore favoured in the winter months. If you want to attract hummingbirds to your backyard, you’ll need to make a nectar solution and get a hummingbird feeder.  The most important take away message is that pollinators are incredibly important to our ecosystem. Without them, most of the food we eat would not exist. It is therefore vital that we do everything in our power to protect these creatures and help their diversity and populations grow and flourish!

Get out and Explore Nature on Earth Day

Get out and Explore Nature on Earth Day

Welcome Spring! After a (very) long winter, signs of spring are (finally) emerging in nature. Spring is also when we celebrate Earth Day, a day intended to inspire Canadians to connect with nature. Connecting children to nature helps get kids away from screens and learn about urban wildlife and their habitats right where they live. Parents can play a vital role in helping kids put down their tablets and video games and take them outside where they can explore and discover nature. Not only does time in nature offer mental and physical health benefits, it will help evoke a child’s natural curiosity, sense of wonder and a lifelong love of nature. Teachers can also provide opportunities for students explore, discover and learn about the natural world, and it can be as simple as exploring their own schoolyard. Students can engage in hands-on learning about local species and habitats through a lens of curiosity about nature and with the confidence to connect with it on their own terms. Not only are they provided with engaging opportunities to learn, they are also provided the opportunity to be physically active, which contributes to a child’s physiological health, cognitive function and mental health.

Exploring nature in the schoolyard

A NatureBlitz (or BioBlitz) is a great activity for educators to engage students in self-directed learning in nature – without having to leave the schoolyard. It’s a time-bound event that focuses on finding and identifying as many species as possible in a given area. It is a great to introduction to citizen science, to learn about and connect with nature. This activity provides an opportunity for students to engage with nature in their schoolyard and learn about urban wildlife and habitats, and hopefully will encourage them to take what they learned and explore nearby nature at home where they live. Nature Canada developed a Do-It-Yourself Toolkit for educators on how to run a NatureBlitz that includes resources and support for nature-based learning. Parents or caregivers can also use the Toolkit as a fun weekend activity in nature. Providing opportunities for children to explore nature can be the best way to celebrate Earth Day this year! Download the NatureBlitz Toolkit  or learn more about ways to reduce screen time and get into nature! Nature Canada's NatureHood program provides children and their families increased opportunities to explore and develop a long-lasting relationship with nature in their communities, and contribute to a healthier lifestyle.

5 Ways to Reconnect with Nature

5 Ways to Reconnect with Nature

In today’s busy world, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the city. In fact, over two-thirds of Canadians live in urban areas, which makes it pretty easy for us to distance ourselves from the great outdoors. While most Canadians agree spending time outside is important, the Coleman Canada Outdoor 2017 Report found that 64% of Canadians surveyed spend less than two hours outside per week. With spring finally upon us, there’s no better time to buck this trend and bring nature back into our lives. With the benefits of spending time outside ranging from reducing stress, lifting our moods, and promoting physical health, here are five easy ways to help you reconnect with nature.

Explore your local parks

You don’t have to go far to reconnect with nature, even visiting your local city park is an excellent way to get back outside. Go for a walk with your family and friends, have a picnic, or toss a frisbee aroundthe possibilities are endless! Most importantly, leave your phone behind so you can be fully present in the great outdoors. Breathe in that fresh air, smell the proverbial roses (maybe a dandelion or two?) and listen to the birds sing!

Join a guided hike

You can even take visiting a park one step further by joining in on a guided hike! Many larger parks, whether national or municipal, have guided hikes put on by nature organizations or community naturalist groups. These are awesome ways to learn from local experts all about the plants and wildlife that call your neighbourhood home. From investigating animal tracking to identifying edible plants, there’s no limit for all the wild things you can learn. Plus, with programs ranging from family hikes to photography walks, there’s something for everyone! Check your local listings to see what’s going on in your neighbourhood.

Find a Sit Spot

The art of sit spots has been long been practiced in Indigenous cultures since time immemorial. It is one of the simplest and most powerful ways to reconnect with nature as it allows you to form a relationship with one particular spot. To pick a sit spot, all you have to do is find somewhere close to your home so you can easily visit it on a semi-regular basis. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, a quiet park bench or in the shade of your favourite backyard tree are great options. Once you’ve picked your spot, all you have to do is be still. Watch the wind in the leaves, breathe in the smell of fresh grass, and watch the bees lazily flit between the stalks. Not only is this an incredibly calming practice, but it also allows you to witness first hand how such a spot can change over time. By carving out these moments of respite in our busy schedules, even if only for a few minutes, sit spots are a fantastic way to reflect, recharge, and reconnect. [caption id="attachment_49474" align="alignnone" width="1024"] A 'Sit Spot', © Brianna Pitt.[/caption]

Go bird-watching

There’s something special about taking a moment to watch the birds soar and sing their days away. To start bird-watching, you can visit a local park or install your own backyard bird feeder to bring the birds to you. These days anyone can easily become a birderwith free birding apps like Audubon and iNaturalist to help identify and record your sightings, bird-watching has never been easier to pick up! As many species are now flying back for the summer, you’ll be surprised by all the different species hiding out in your neighbourhood. You can even make it a challengesee how many birds you and your family can spot!

Plant a garden

There’s no better way to reconnect with nature than getting your hands dirty. Even if you don’t have a backyard to play in, you can join a community garden or start your own potted oasis on your balcony or window sill! While planning your new spread, be sure to use local wildflowers to invite birds and pollinators to your garden. Whether you plot your own personal garden or get the whole family involved, there’s nothing better than working out that green thumb! Featured Image © Mya Van Woudenberg.

Get Outside for Family Day

Get Outside for Family Day

February may be the shortest month of the year and at times can feel like the longest when winter hits hard. This year most of Canada has felt the effects of the Polar Vortex with cold weather and lots of snow. But the cold weather doesn’t mean you have to stay indoors, and Family Day is a great way to break out of hibernation and embrace nature in winter. With kids spending more time on screens, making time for nature is more important than ever. Time spent in nature and being active outdoors is beneficial to children’s health and overall well-being. Spending time in nature is a great way to connect with family and friends, get moving and reap the health benefits. Here are a few ideas to get you out exploring nature on Family Day:

Explore nearby nature

You don’t need to go far to explore nature. It can be as simple as going for a walk in your neighbourhood and observing how many birds you can see and hear. Bundle up and visit a local nature trail and look for signs of wildlife – watch for tracks in the snow and listen for woodpeckers knocking on trees.

Visit a provincial park

For those who want to venture out farther, many provincial parks have outdoor activities planned and equipment like snowshoes and cross-country skis available for rent. A number of provincial parks have Family Day nature events planned all weekend long.

Join the Great Backyard Bird Count (Feb 15-18, 2019)

Become a citizen scientist for a day and for at least 15 minutes tally the total number and different species of birds you see. You can count from anywhere for as long as you wish. Submit your findings using the easy-to-use app ebird and contribute to bird conservation. No matter what you decide, taking time to get into nature year-round is a great way to unplug and connect with friends and family. For more tips on how to get into nature, download our TIP SHEET!

Making your own suet for birds this winter!
Photo by Barb D'Arpino

Making your own suet for birds this winter!

Making your own suet for the birds visiting your backyard during winter is a wonderful way to stay connected to nature while still staying warm! This is a simple way to provide another food source for birds to help them out during the long and cold Canadian winters." Below is a simple recipe for suet that will bring feathered friends to your NatureHood! Note that the temperature needs to be cold enough so that suet does not melt.

Simple Suet Recipe for Wintering Birds


2/3 cup coconut oil 2/3 cup black oil sunflower seeds 3 tbsp peanut butter with no salt added 3 tbsp cornmeal

Oats, corn kernels, peanuts out of the shell, and unsalted almond butter can also be added to the mixture.

1) Melt the coconut oil on a saucepan over low heat. 2) Add peanut butter, stir well until blended 3) Turn off stove, add other ingredients and mix well 4) Pour into a low profile pan 5) Once suet is cooled down, cut into cakes that will fit suet feeder 6) Wrap cakes individually to store in freezer.

Et voila! Enjoy the company of nature from the comfort of your home! To learn more about the birds that stay in our backyards over winter, check out our Winter Birds e-Book today!

December Calendar Image: Red Fox
Photo by Brittany Crossman

December Calendar Image: Red Fox

The Red Fox, also known as Vulpes Vulpes, is a species found around the globe. It’s characteristics allow it to adapt well to human environments and it’s got a reputation for its comical cleverness. Best described as a mix between a coyote and a small dog, it’s known the world over for its sly and sneaky nature. Its sharp and pointed face, and relatively light body, allows for both speed and agility. The fox’s confidence isn’t just folklore, the mammal actually chooses to sleep alone out in the open, keeping itself warm by wrapping it’s long, bushy tail around its body. Settlers originally brought red foxes from Europe into the United States for hunting purposes. Hunting foxes as a sport had been a popular activity in England since the 1500’s, where they were considered vermin, by city-dwellers and farmers alike. Thankfully, today we understand the important part that red foxes play in the ecology of forests and the larger ecosystem. The nocturnal animal is one of Canada’s most wide-spread mammals. Red foxes can be found in every one of Canada’s provinces and territories, as well as across Asia, Europe, North Africa, Australia and the United States. Despite its name, the red fox is not always red in colour. From brown, black to even a silver-tinge, the red fox is a vibrant animal in more ways than one. It’s lengthy, thick tail makes up one-third of its entire body length and it’s fantastic hearing allows the red fox to hear low-frequencies. This superior hearing allows them to catch small, underground prey, such as rodents. Although their hunting preference is using the classic sit-and-wait approach, where they watch their prey intensely before pouncing, they can reach up to 50 km/h running if needed. The red fox has a litter of anywhere between one to ten pups annually. When the pups are around seven months old, they can hunt by themse lves and begin leaving home. Many red foxes have traveled up to 250 km away to find their humble abode, typically making their homes in meadows or wooded areas, although many have habitats in the deserts, the Canadian tundra or grasslands. Once they reach maturity, red foxes weigh in at around 3-14 kg and have a total body length of 90 to over 110 cm. The red fox’s cockiness and cunning has made it known to farmers as a chicken thief, often sneaking onto farmland to indulge in a chicken dinner. Although chicken is a tasty meal, the red fox is an omnivore, so berries and plants are also key staples in its diet. Some foxes have been known to travel over 8 km in a single night to find some. Unlike other wild dogs, foxes are independent and prefer to hunt, eat, and live alone. Maybe it’s during all this free time that they develop their wit? Today, the fox has become a pop culture icon from its role in Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, to the cunning Robin Hood in the 1973 Disney flick. The red fox has an average lifespan of 3-6 years. With a stable population, and ‘least concern’ conservation status, the crafty fox will probably continue to thrive and contrive for a long time.

Reducing Anxiety Through Nature

Reducing Anxiety Through Nature

Sherry has taken her upbringing in rural Saskatchewan, together with a career in public health, to the "natural" conclusion that time in nature is good for us, physically, emotionally and socially.

Is “fight or flight” a friend or foe?

For millennia, the biological 'fight or flight' reaction has served to protect members of the animal kingdom from harm. It kicks in when there is potential danger; for example, when a rabbit senses a fox.  There is an autonomic cascade of reactions that is activated in the amygdala in the brain.  In turn, it signals the hypothalamus which launches a series of reactions of the sympathetic nervous system.  Adrenaline floods the body causing increased heart rate and respiration.  Glucose goes to the muscles for instant energy; senses are heightened to hear, see and smell danger.  If the threat continues, additional hormones are released, including cortisol, to sustain the stress reaction for longer periods of time[i]. This physiological response enables the "fight"- the buffalo charges the wolf, the blue jay attacks the owl, the mother bear protects her cubs.  In some species it enables the 'flight'- the slap and swim of the beaver, the skittishness of songbirds, the sudden dive of a frog. Quick response to danger is vital to survival of the organism, and ultimately of the species.

The Human Experience

Humans also experience this biological phenomenon when we are stressed. Nowadays, the stress is seldom related to a predator's attack, but we do experience a stress response to difficult life events as well as day to day challenges.  We feel our heart pound, our breathing quicken, our muscles tense, our gut clench. This response helps us respond to emergencies and extract ourselves from uncomfortable situations.  Mild stress can be positive; it heightens our senses, motivates us and improves performance. But what happens when our body stays in a persistent stress response?  We become overly anxious, worried, tense, tired and even depressed.  We experience panic attacks without provocation.  Chronic stress with elevated hormones is hard on our blood vessels and cardiovascular system; it increases the appetite leading to weight gain[ii]. If it reaches a level where it interferes with daily living it can become a clinical anxiety disorder:  phobias, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety, post traumatic stress syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder[iii].  According to Statistics Canada 8.6% of Canadians have a diagnosed anxiety disorder[iv].

The Effects of Time In Nature

Time in nature can directly counteract some of the physiological and psychological effects of anxiety.  Research is showing that for healthy individuals time in greenspace contributes to mental health; for those with diagnosed mental illness, including anxiety disorders, time in nature can be an effective component of treatment[v]. Spending time in, or even passively viewing, greenspace, has beneficial psychophysiological effects[vi] by lowering blood pressure, muscle tension, and heart rate.  Cortisol is lower in people when they are in nature.  The Attention Restoration effect reduces some of the mental fatigue of being in protracted fight or flight mode.  Time in nature decreases rumination, which is the persistent recurrence of unwanted negative thoughts[vii].  The affiliated effects of time in nature, in particular increased physical activity and increased social connectedness, in and of themselves, are beneficial in reducing stress and anxiety[viii].

Getting nature in your day

With the hectic holiday period soon upon us, let all of us ensure that we build time in nature into our daily routines.  Walk through the park on the way to work, watch the birds at the feeder for a few extra minutes, get out on the snowshoes in the woods.  Use a natural scene as your computer screensaver, put up some photographs from your camping trip, get some plants or fresh cut flowers for the house, start a nature journal to record thoughts, observations, doodles and poetry. There is some irony that nature where generations of humans experienced “fight or flight” is now our respite from stress. The natural world is balm for the senses; even in the winter, the smell of balsam, the fresh cold on the face, the sound of running water, the serenity of snow covered trees can help us de-stress and calm the anxious mind. Wishing you all time in nature, and may it bring you peace and good health in 2019! Sherry, RN BSN
[i] Harvard Medical School.  Understanding the stress response.  Downloaded on November 8, 2018 from [ii] ibid [iii] Canadian Mental Health Association.  Anxiety Disorders.  Downloaded November 9, 2018 from [iv] Statistics Canada.  2017. Mental Health Disorders and Life Satisfaction in Canada. Downloaded on November 8, 2018 from [v] National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health. 2015. Summary:  Review of Green Space and Mental Health.  Downloaded October 2016 from [vi] Beyer, K. M. M., Kaltenbach, A., Szabo, A., Bogar, S., Nieto, F. J., & Malecki, K. M. (2014). Exposure to Neighborhood Green Space and Mental Health: Evidence from the Survey of the Health of Wisconsin . International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 11(3), 3453–3472  Downloaded November 8, 2018 from [vii] Bratman et al. 2015.  Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation.  Downloaded May 3, 2018 from!po=8.62069 [viii] National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health. 2015. Summary:  Review of Green Space and Mental Health.  Downloaded October 2016 from

Squirrel! Can nature reduce the symptoms of ADHD?

Squirrel! Can nature reduce the symptoms of ADHD?

[caption id="attachment_38322" align="alignleft" width="150"] Sherry Nigro[/caption] This blog post was written by Nature Canada guest blogger Sherry Nigro, and is the second in a series of blogs on the effect of nature on mental health. “Squirrel”. Anyone who has a dog knows that this single word will immediately distract them from whatever they were doing.  In fact, a lot of people find that they too, can be easily distracted, impulsive and inattentive, especially if they are tired or stressed.  The consequences can negatively affect academic and job performance, health and safety as well as relationships with others.  For approximately 5% of children and 4% of adults (conservative measures) these are symptoms of a neurodevelopmental illness called attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)[i]. Did you know that time in natural environments can help reduce inattentiveness and improve concentration?

How does it work

Much has been written about the attention restoration affect that time in nature has, since the theory was proposed by Rachel and Stephen Kaplan in the 1980s. It recognizes that periods of extended concentration (such as working on math problems), over stimulation (for example, urban environments) and even under stimulation, are draining and lead to mental fatigue, which in turn can make one easily distracted and unable to focus on the task at hand. In sharp contrast, being in a natural environment requires no intellectual effort, but provides a wrap-around multi-sensory experience.  And most significant, people feel a sense of awe, of being deeply engaged, of being fascinated by the surroundings, that has the most restorative effect.  Who among us has not looked up into a tree canopy with its dancing shades of green, or been mesmerized by water spilling over rocks, or watched a hardworking ant carry a trophy much bigger than itself, and not felt moved? And in turn, refreshed. Subsequent researchers have validated the findings that time in nature can improve attention as noted in a systematic review by Ohly et al, published by the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health[ii]. In addition to short term emotional effects that restore attention and focus, long term exposure to nature can affect brain development in children.  In research published earlier this year, Dadvand et al found that children who lived in urban neighbourhoods with "surrounding greenness" had larger volumes of grey and white matter and also showed better working memory and reduced inattention in cognitive testing[iii].

Reducing the symptoms of ADHD

People with ADHD may show behaviours such as daydreaming, being easily distracted from tasks, talking excessively, interrupting others, being unable to sit still, poor attention to detail and difficulty with multitasking[iv]. The burden is significant at a human and social level with estimates suggesting the cost of ADHD in Canada is 7 billion dollars per year[v]. So not surprisingly, researchers have looked at whether time in nature could improve the symptoms of ADHD. Frances Kuo and Andrea Faber Taylor published strong evidence in the American Journal of Public Health that demonstrated symptoms in children improved, even controlling for residential and individual variables[vi].  Recently, the Lawson Foundation, a philanthropic organization to support the wellbeing of children,  commissioned two systematic literature reviews, one[vii] by the Human Environments Analysis Lab at Western University (lead investigator Dr. Jason Gilliland, child health geographer), and the other by Dr. Robert Gifford, an environmental psychologist, and Dr. Angela Chen at the University of Victoria[viii] which supported the findings that time in nature improved symptoms of ADHD.  (Note that this is complementary to other treatment options such as medication and cognitive therapy).

Applying this to the real world 

It appears that time in nature can be restorative for children and adults, for those with ADHD and those who feel mentally fatigued.  This resonates for me; how many times has a walk in the woods provided clarity of thinking, better focus, and enhanced problem solving?  But a walk, while a great first step is not the only way to add greenness to our lives. This is the fun part.  Let your imagination go wild (many people with ADHD are highly creative, spontaneous, and energetic) as you consider ways to incorporate nature in your day.  Consider active transportation through a park, use natural scenes for wall coverings, take a picnic down to the beach.  Consider the greenness of the neighbourhood when finding a new home.  Schools, universities and workplaces can work to “naturalize” their properties with trees and water.  Green walls (with plants, not paint), and rooftop gardens are also ways to reduce mental fatigue through exposure to nature.  Why not share your ideas? So whether you are trying to make sure your hyperactive 10 year old adjusts to a new school, you are preparing for an exam, or had a heavy few days at work, spend some time to watch the clouds, be amazed by the texture of tree bark, and enjoy the antics of the industrious squirrel in the nearby tree.
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[i] Centre for ADHD Awareness, Canada (CADDAC). Understanding ADHD- ADHD Facts- Dispelling the Myths.  Downloaded July 20, 2018 from [ii] Heather Ohly, Mathew P. White, Benedict W. Wheeler, Alison Bethel, Obioha C. Ukoumunne, Vasilis Nikolaou & Ruth Garside (2016) Attention Restoration Theory: A systematic review of the attention restoration potential of exposure to natural environments, Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B, 19:7, 305-343, DOI: 10.1080/10937404.2016.1196155 [iii] Dadvand et al. 2018. The Association between Lifelong Greenspace Exposure and 3-Dimensional Brain Magnetic Resonance Imaging in Barcelona Schoolchildren. Environmental Health Perspectives.  Downloaded from [iv] CADDAC. Understanding ADHD>In General> Symptoms. Downloaded July 20, 2018 [v] CADDAC. Understanding ADHD>In General>Socioeconomic Costs.  Downloaded July 20, 2018 from [vi]  Kuo, Frances E., Faber Taylor, Andrea.  2004.  A Potential Natural Treatment for Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder:  Evidence from a National Study.  American Journal of Public Health.  2004 September: 94(9): 1580-1586.  Downloaded July 10, 2018 from [vii] Human Environments Analysis Laboratory. (nd) Children and Nature:  A systematic review.  Downloaded on July 10, 2018 from [viii] Gifford, R., Chen, A.  2016.  Children and Nature:  What We Know and What We Do Not.  Downloaded on July 10, 2018 from

Rediscovering Nature in Your ‘Hood

Rediscovering Nature in Your ‘Hood

[caption id="attachment_38005" align="alignleft" width="150"] Bob Peart, Chair of Nature Canada.[/caption] This blog was written by Bob Peart, who is the Chair of Nature Canada and the founding Chair of the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada. Bob is a committed advocate for protecting nature and has a life-long passion for sharing his love for nature and getting children and their families reconnected to the outdoors. This post was originally shared on the Children & Nature Network. Children and Nature Network is a global movement to increase access to nature so that children – and natural places – can thrive. The organization was founded by author Richard Louv, who coined the term “nature-deficit disorder” in his bestselling book, Last Child in the Wood, and is a tireless advocate of getting kids outdoors.

As you head out the door today to go to work, run errands or hike with friends, stop for a moment to think about your neighborhood. What does your neighborhood represent?  How important is it to you?

Now consider how your neighborhood and your concept of neighborhood has changed over the years.

I was raised in the 50’s and 60’s. My neighborhood was a street of 20-30 houses, a range of farmers’ fields, a nearby gravel-pit and a good-sized creek. Across the railway tracks was a large city park with baseball fields, picnic tables and a forest with trails. I’d leave the house and be gone for the day roaming around that neighborhood— running through the corn fields, building rafts and hunting for squirrels— and would often end up a couple of miles from my house. My mum and dad weren’t that concerned because I was a pretty good kid. I understood safety (even though I took risks). And if I was going to be late, I could just stop at a nearby house to call home.

[caption id="attachment_38006" align="alignright" width="300"] A female Cardinal, capture by Sandy Thompson.[/caption]

Of course, childhood looks a lot different now. Children today spend 90% of their time indoors. While I could identify most local plants and animals as a child, today most children can’t name the five most common birds. I rarely watched television; children today spend up to seven hours a day in front of a screen. As childhood has migrated indoors, our sense of neighborhood has changed drastically. Today, children often don’t know their neighbors. And they seldom even leave the safety of their backyard, never mind roam the neighborhood.

These trends continue despite increasing literature and knowledge about the negative effects of a lack of outdoor time on an individual’s mental, physical and spiritual health.

To counter this trend, Nature Canada has developed a program called NatureHood— or nature in your ‘hood. The goal of NatureHood is to connect urban children and families with nearby nature in their neighborhoods, right where they live. Working closely with local organizations across the country, Nature Canada’s NatureHood program provides children and families opportunities to explore, play and develop a long-lasting relationship with nature in their communities through a variety of nature-based activities and events. NatureHood aims to inspire children with a sense of wonder and appreciation for nature, and ultimately help to foster the next generation of nature lovers and future leaders to protect natural places.

Programs like NatureHood are increasingly important as people increasingly move into cities, where nearby nature is hard to find.

Imagine that, in thirty years, 80% of us will be living in urban landscapes, with most of us in mega-cities of 20 million or more. What will our connection with nature and our neighborhood be like then? Without a conscious effort, the connection to nature could be lost.

Nature conservation begins when we are young, in association with the neighborhoods where we grow up. We need to increasingly introduce urban children and families to nature-based activities close to home: in their ‘hood! It is essential that we promote urban parks and treed streetscapes. These outdoor activities will lead to a sense of belonging, perhaps a sense of neighborhood. The connection to nature brings a value set that respects the environment and the need to protect it, which brings with it the health-related benefits we all need, plus hope for the future.

It seems pretty clear that being outside in nature must once again become an essential part of our family dynamic and cultural identity.  There is perhaps no better place for that than in our local nature ‘hoods.

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