If you’re of a certain generation, one thing you probably heard a lot was “Go outside and play!” I spent my childhood outside as much as possible (away from potentially disapproving adult eyes), no matter the weather, running wild with a local gang of equally grubby urchins.
It was great. We biked, climbed, explored our urban and coastal landscape, and learned lots about the world around us, picking up life skills like independence and self-reliance while learning about local flora and fauna up close (occasionally too close).
Hidden in plain sight
I still love being outdoors. I walk at least once a day and hike on the weekends. I still find amazing things on every excursion I take with my present companion-in-exploration, Barnum. Together we’ve seen an owl almost close enough to touch, a snake basking in the sun in a tree, a young eagle enjoying a delicious catch, or a honeybee on a flower — the list is endless. The world is teeming with fascinating things, big and small, and all of the aforementioned sitings were in an urban environment.
As you travel through the West Coast, take note of what you see during your outdoor explorations – do the birds, bees and other creatures differ from what you see at home?
The urban landscape has changed greatly — more crowded, more populated — and our society has become more structured. Kids spend a lot of time in pre-planned activities that fit in with busy lifestyles, whizzed from place to place by vehicle, disconnected from the natural world.
It’s become necessary to schedule outside time, and probably never more important for kids to learn about how valuable our natural world is to all life.
Everyone loves to dream, discover, explore
Fresh air is good for you! It’s not just something your mum said to get you out from under foot. It improves sleep quality, lowers stress, improves immune systems and even eyesight. Besides all that, it’s fun!
An ardent advocate for going outside, I’ve always been a fan of Gerald Durrell, owning a well-thumbed copy of The Amateur Naturalist, and if you’re familiar with his childhood stories about exploring nature in his backyard (which happened to be in Greece in the 1930s) you’ll understand how watching a spider build a web can be fascinating.
One of my children was horrified by all things multi-legged, while the other was an avid collector, making for “lively” family walks. Some of our finds, including a full deer skeleton, snake skins, owl pellets, and even an otter skull, have been carefully examined. All offer opportunities for discussion.
Making time for the wild can be as simple as stepping into a local park where you’re visiting.
Having unstructured time outdoors is a great way to make connections, both wild and human. You don’t have to plan much, just set aside time — you don’t need any special equipment, other than good shoes and weather-appropriate clothes. You can explore nature in your backyard, or in the local park, at the beach, or by the lake. The world is an amazing place, filled with wonders big and small. Grab your hat, shoes and enjoy the adventure!
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