I'm currently working my way through Richard Louv's book, Last Child In Woods, and finding it a really interesting read. There has been so much talk about this book that I thought I should get my hands on a copy. I'm glad I did.
It's all about 'nature deficit disorder', which is a totally made-up term for the disconnect from nature and the environment that (some) kids these days experience. He talks about how kids seem bored or disinterested in playing outdoors and would rather flop in front of the telly or some other form of screen, how playgrounds today are all about eliminating risk and to extent limiting imaginative play, about the fear people have of letting their kids explore or roam freely (and thereby breeding a fear in their kids of 'wild' places).
It's all incredibly thought-provoking for me.
As someone who grew up on a farm, I think I have a good relationship with the environment. For me, wild places are where I can truly exhale. I see no beauty in a city skyline. I do see beauty in a smooth piece of bark or silhouetted mountains or reeds on the water's edge.
I'd really like to nurture that closeness to nature in my kids.
It's easy to think 'oh, my kids are fine'. We live in a wonderful part of Sydney that's surrounded by a significant expanse of green areas and we do use that space a fair bit - though not enough, I think.
The stumbling block is E's reluctance to do outdoorsy stuff. Ever since he was little it's been a case of dragging him to the park, or anywhere outside the house. The kid just loves staying home. Inside.
So this weekend, in between downpours, I took the opportunity to [drag] encourage him outside. Across the road from our house - mere metres - is a trail that follows a river for some distance and leads to a small bushland area. This is it:
To coerce the kid I made up a treasure hunt. I began to question whether Louv would approve though, because E seemed to be intently focused on getting M&Ms instead of looking at the bush around him.
But then, after all the sweets had been doled out, he started to run ahead. He picked up sticks. Climbed rocks.
Pointed out spiders and centipedes. We even spied a tree full of noisy bats.
All up, we walked for about two hours (and I will freely admit when we got to the end of the trail we called Shaun and got him to come in the car and pick us up!). It was lovely. And I think, in light of the book I'm reading, important.
I really hope I do enough to nurture a love of nature in my kids while they're little. I want them to grow up feeling that the bush is a special and magical place, just as I did.