Nature deficiency in children

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

KidsPlayingDensRecent reports in Britain have claimed – and they are more that likely right – that only 20% of children have any sort of connection with Nature which, it has to be said, is quite a shocking statistic

I do think, however, that the problem goes far deeper than that and I put a lot of the stresses and anxiety surrounding modern living down to the fact that we have increasingly become disassociated from our natural world.

The nanny state also does not help where it is – basically – illegal for kids to go out exploring on their own and, G-d forbid, carrying a pocketknife with which to do some whittling, making their toys from a stick, or even carving a walking stick.

In addition to that we have the recent ads for “Toys R Us” that make Nature out as something to be avoided and that play and fun can only be had with manufactured toys “Made in China”.

Considering, however, the fact that the simple and humble stick made it into the “American Toy's Hall of Fame” only a couple of years ago and now available in a woodland near you everywhere children, given the chance, do have completely different ideas as do the advertising agencies making the “Toys R Us” commercials and I refuse to actually believe that the entire commercial was not staged and that the kids were not actors themselves.

In response to those reports there seems to be loads of suggestions as to how to address this problem though none of which I expect any government will act upon. I am sure we all have our own suggestion and here are a number simple (and free) activities, some of which may appeal no matter what age the child maybe. Some are even fun for adults to do with the kids; in fact the adults should do them together with the kids.

  • Go on a bug hunt, anywhere from the local park to the garden or even a window box and see what is crawling around under that stone or beneath that leaf or piece of rotting wood. You may be surprised at the amazing world that exists out of normal view.

  • What better time than autumn to go out collecting and identifying leaves and nuts.

  • Hug a tree and take the time to feel the texture of the different barks, from the smooth ash, to the rough oak to the ridged sweet chestnut. And take the time to look up into the complex weave of branches and twigs, upon which you will already be able to see the buds that will open next spring.

  • Why not simple splash in a puddle or roll down a slope – perfect for those of us who really want to rediscover their inner child!

  • Go pond dipping or investigate a rock pool and see what creatures lurk beneath the surface of the water.

  • Make a secret map of your local green space, be it garden, park or woods, adding in distinctive features such as trees or hills or dips. And why not add some buried treasure? We used to make such maps of each and every area that we lived in or stayed in, and not just for fun.

  • Collect fallen wood to create a den in the woods (and add it to the above map).

  • Make space for nature by putting up a bird box (from January our garden visitors will be starting to check out places suitable for nesting), or create a pile of twigs or even build an insect hotel from anything that you have to hand (you will find plenty of advice on line).

  • Feed the birds and attract them into your garden where you can enjoy studying them without even having to go outside.

  • How about a game of “Pooh sticks” – stand on a bridge above a stream, drop in a stick each and see whose stick emerges first on the other side.

  • Have a war – or play Cowboys and Indians (or cops and robbers) – using stick guns. Aside from going hunting with slingshots (catapults) this was one of many things that we did as kids.

  • Go and make a walking stick.

And, I am sure, this list could go on almost for ever and everyone will have his or her own ideas. One important thing; get the kids outside and into Nature.

© 2014