Connecting to Nature

Getting our kids (and families) outside and into nature is one of FredCoKids core initiatives and we’re proud of our involvement with Frederick County Parks & Rec; in promoting and supporting their parks and programs.

Scott Sampson (host of the PBS series Dinosaur Train) recently wrote : How to Raise a Wild Child – The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature.

The book is both educational and motivational . At its core is his concern and rationale for encouraging nature awareness – starting at a very young age and in very simple ways. The book has several “secrets” for how to raise a wild child – a child connected to nature and our natural world. This connection may have more far reaching implications than we currently appreciate.

I don’t want to give away too many “secrets” but there a couple highlights I want to emphasize. First, getting into nature doesn’t mean just going on vacations to our national parks ( although that’s a great idea!). Just as important are frequent visits and explorations to natural (and not so natural) places close to home. How? Well it starts with you and it starts at home. Children will follow your lead (and your interests). Take time to get outside and explore your surroundings. Listen for a bird call ( shh- must be quiet) or check out the night sky (it’s much better when it’s really dark and away from background lights) or go for a family hike and picnic – is there really any better family activity? Second, make nature awareness part of your day ( and value system). Connect your kid and nature together. Get outside, take a walk, set up a bird feeder, identify a cloud, look for a 4 leaf clover. It doesn’t have to be awesome to be special. Your child will feed off your enthusiasm and is there anything more special than the interested and quizzical look of a child exploring and trying to understand something for the first time? Third, be a follower, not a leader. It’s truly about the journey, not the destination. Let your child lead the way- let their curiosity be in control. And don’t be afraid if you don’t know the answers. In fact, it may be better if you don’t. Remember the cloud identification example above? It’s better to play a cloud game -what does it look like , what does it remind you of, rather than its a strato-cumulus.

There’s plenty of time later to delve into knowledge and identification, but there is precious little time to peek interest, imagination and fun!

Why is this important and why now? Interestingly, both nature scientists and child development specialists agree, as our technological world and physical science knowledge has transformed our lives (and time management), we have become increasingly insulated from the world around us. We’ve lost appreciation that we’re part of an ecosystem and even though we may be at the top of the food chain , its still a chain ,with potential devastating effects if we don’t respect or attempt to understand that connection.

It’s never too early to promote, instill and encourage our connection to nature. Please take the time to both understand this for yourself and your family. We are blessed to live in a community that has nature all around us.

We just need to step outside and say “Hello!”

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