In partnership with our friends at Retrospec
What is Earth Day?
Earth Day found its start in 1970 as a call for increased protection for our planet. It grew to be a global movement in 1990, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries. Today, this movement has grown tremendously, mobilizing 1 billion individuals for action every Earth Day. This is mainly due to increased digital and social media bringing these conversations and concerns for a cleaner planet to a global audience.
However, living in an age of rapidly growing technology can be both a blessing and a curse. While we can now see the scientific evidence and repercussions of a warming planet, we have also become more disconnected from experiencing and enjoying this planet. One of our mottoes here at Hike it Baby is “Together, we are raising a generation to love the outdoors and each other.” We do this by providing opportunities for all families to get out in nature. When we instill a love of the environment into our children from a young age, they are more likely to protect that environment.
The ”Unplugged” Challenge
It’s time we take a lesson from our pint-sized explorers and put down the screens to enjoy what is right in front of us. In order to help our planet, we have to learn to fully appreciate it. From the worms that aerate our soil, to the trees and plants that provide us with oxygen. The best way to accomplish this is by fully experiencing it. Not with a screen, but with our own senses. Enter the “Unplugged” family challenge. We recruited five Hike it Baby Community members (including myself) to get outside, unplugged, with their families for at least an hour. Here are their experiences:
“Every month my family goes on a weekend camping trip and each time we try to completely unplug the entire weekend. Instead of being glued to our phones and tablets, we hike, explore outside, read books, play games, tell stories around the fire, snuggle, and have tons of family bonding time! Those unplugged weekends are such a breath of fresh air for our mental health. We get to cut out all the stuff that doesn’t matter on social media and instead focus on what’s really important, creating memories with our family.”
“We arrived at the Houston Arboretum and I tell my little one that we are about to go on an adventure. I put my phone on silent and in my backpack and we take the trail at 4:15 p.m.
To be honest, I didn’t know what to do at first, I’m so used to taking photos of her that this time around I was just observing her. It felt weird not having my camera but after a while, I forgot it and was able to be fully present with her. She was so excited that I was letting her lead the way, she would point at the arrow and say let’s go this way. I had the opportunity to contemplate as we walked on a windy yet beautiful day. I thought about how being outdoors in the moment is very therapeutic. I loved everything about it.
My little one would stop and pick up acorns and cover them with loose sticks saying she was making a home for them. Time seemed to be at a standstill, we started walking back to the entrance to the Playscape that has a sandpit and other things kids can explore.
The little one enjoyed playing in the sand. And I just sat and enjoyed the breeze. It was 5:20 when I pulled my phone back out and thought about how relaxing it was to not have it out. I was able to be fully present with my little one and enjoy the moment. Thank you Hike it Baby for this idea and I hope I’m able to do this with my husband and baby as well!”
“Leaving our phones at home meant no pictures of a family walk to the neighborhood park for a picnic and play, but made space for (less) distracted conversation and taking turns napping in the sunshine before a quick dash home when it started to rain. Overall, a great choice and something our family is committed to doing more!”
“We went outside for a 3-hour chunk of time and fixed fence for spring pasture for the cattle. Miss 2.5 always loves the outdoors and mostly followed along with a song in her heart once she decided she didn’t need help at every step. She even enjoyed plowing through the snow when she fell through toward the end, convincing me we need a few more opportunities to weather some hardships and gain age-appropriate confidence/independence.
We were unplugged for about 1.5 hours before I checked my phone, which I carried for safety but had on silent. I noticed I wanted to check it every 45-60 minutes for incoming messages. I would feel vulnerable and unsafe without my phone on me and a toddler with me since the mama cows can be unpredictable and while it’s uncommon, hibernating animals can be dangerous and are starting to come out for the spring.
I would absolutely do it again and appreciate the refreshment it brings to my personal mental health to unplug, especially from social media and text messages. I slow down better and am more present in the moment when my phone is untouched, and I feel more fulfilled. It was tough to realize I’m checking for messages without actually expecting anything, wanting to interact with people this way even though I recognize that it’s an overall drain on my energy. I’d like to be more intentional to put the phone in my pocket and leave it there throughout my day, and especially outside to enjoy living a bit more in the moment with my daughter instead of capturing memories or passing time as she plays. I may not go totally without that helpline in case of emergency though.”
“My husband and I decided to unplug during a family hike with our two boys. I am the worst culprit for using my phone on hikes (mostly for taking photos and tracking our route), so I left my phone in the car. We turned his phone off and stuffed it into the bottom of our hiking pack for emergencies. At first, I found myself constantly reaching for my pocket where my phone usually is. After about 20 minutes into the hike, I finally started to really experience our hike. It was like seeing nature through the eyes of a child again. I noticed more around me; the smells, the sounds, the tiny critters and plants I would otherwise have missed, etc.
My boys caught on as well, and started saying things like “Mommy, Daddy, look at this!” and “Ooh, let’s explore that log” once they noticed they had our full attention. We bonded more as a family and made some fun memories. While I don’t think we will go completely without technology on our hikes (in case of emergency), this experience convinced me to enjoy nature in the moment rather than through a photo I may look at a handful of times and easily forget.”
Celebrate our Earth
This Earth Day, let’s take the time to actually appreciate our Earth. Not through a lens or a photo, but with our own eyes. Or better yet, with ALL of our senses. Let’s try to emulate the curiosity and wonder that our children experience. Stop to smell the flowers or observe the creatures in a puddle. Close your eyes and listen to all the wonderful sounds in nature. Taste fresh, wild blackberries or feel the moss growing on a nurse log. Take it all in and trust that your memory will capture it better than any photo you take with your phone. Because our kids are only young once and we only have one Earth. It’s time we fully experience and appreciate both.
Now it’s your turn. We challenge you to take the “Unplugged” challenge with your family. Let us know how it goes in the comments below or share your experiences with us on Facebook in Our Hike it Baby Community Group.
ABOUT HIKE IT BABY
Hike it Baby is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to getting families outdoors and on trails across the U.S. and internationally, supporting, educating and inspiring families through their more than 300 communities across North America. Since its grassroots inception in 2013 in Portland, Oregon, Hike it Baby is now a growing community of 270,000 families and 500 volunteer branch ambassadors hosting more than 1,600 hikes per month. More information, as well as daily hike schedules, can be found at HikeitBaby.com, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram. To support their mission and further their programming aimed at supporting families, donate here.