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Bringing Children Back to Nature

Originally appears in the Spring 2010 issue

Many of us have treasured memories of exploring the natural world as children and want to share nature’s beauty with the children in our lives. But these days, children seem far removed from the outdoors. In Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, author Richard Louv tells of the many barriers we face in bringing children back to the wilds: extended hours of “screen time,” lack of physical activity, and a general alienation from nature. While most parents and educators acknowledge this situation, many are confounded as to how to bring children back to nature. They might think, “I’m not a naturalist. I don’t even know the difference between a spruce and a pine tree!” They might lament, “Even if I owned a compass, I wouldn’t know how to use it.” They feel the urge to help children make a connection with the natural world, but feel powerless to facilitate that connection. Perhaps you feel the same? Luckily, you do not have to be an accomplished naturalist or wilderness survival expert in order to be the conduit for children’s discovery (or rediscovery) of nature. All you need is sheer will and some activities to awaken kids’ senses, minds and hearts.

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Janet Barlow is the Coordinator of Sharing Nature Canada. An environmental educator and writer living in Halifax, she is also director of Sense of Wonder Environmental Education.