There is a key difference in the way kids grow up today, and the way I did back in the 70’s. It’s a difference that most people probably don’t really think much about – or sadly, even care about. This difference is the desire to play, discover and enjoy the wonders of nature.
Today, about the only exposure many have with nature, is when they’re forced to become involved in a weekend camping trip with family or friends. Even then, many still insist on having indoor plumbing available on the campsite grounds no more than 100 yards or so away. That’s not exactly “roughing it!”
Kids growing up in my generation were naturally drawn to nature. This didn’t necessarily mean a kid had to live out in the middle of nowhere to be exposed to nature and learn from it. Even kids in the suburbs would ride their bicycles to local bridges, then descend below them to discover a whole different world around the creek. Even though we weren’t more than a mile from home, playing and discovering around the creek beds, exposed us to a sense of wonder. The sights, sounds and smells were completely different than anything we could experience in our neighborhood. It certainly would be even more different for today’s kid who is often cooped up inside his house with his iPhone, and the newest violent computer game!
If you’re a parent, and believe your kids would benefit from being more in touch with nature, here are a few tips that you might find useful:
1. Start off slow: Don’t suddenly load the family in to the SUV with a minimum of supplies and run off to the middle of some national forrest. Instead, consider visiting a state park for a day of fun, a picnic and some easy trail hiking. Don’t necessarily get uptight because they want to bring their cell phone or other electronic device they supposedly can’t live without. Remember, for kids today, that device is as important to them as your 10 speed bicycle was to you 25 years ago! Instead, work out a compromise about limiting use of the electronic stuff while you’re enjoying the day out as a family. Who knows? Maybe a few days like this will lead them to wanting to try some overnight camping at some point. If not, these types of days still get them way more in touch with nature than they were before.
2. Talk to them about the environment: Ironically, even thought kids today don’t care nearly as much about being out in nature as past generations, they still care a great deal about the environment. That’s because this subject has been emphasized in schools, and our culture, more in the last 20 years than anytime in our country’s history. Make the connection with them that the more time they spend out in nature, the more opportunities they will have to improve the environment by gaining a greater understanding of it!