At about 4 p.m. yesterday I kicked the kids outside. They had eaten their snack and done their chores after school and were starting to climb the walls so it was time for them to, as Gabbie puts it, “get their ya-yas out”. Almost every day they spend an hour outside, more on the weekends, and I believe this unstructured play-time outdoors is critical for their development. I catch a snippet of their conversation as they head out and it usually starts with something like “now pretend you’re the lion and I’m the princess” and I watch them through the window as they head up the stream with willow branch swords in hand.
There has been lots of talk lately about the importance of getting children outside, and I am happy to see more outdoor and place-based education popping up in curriculum all over New England. Locally we are incredibly fortunate to have many nature education programs for children – two of note are Four Winds Nature Institute, which trains adult volunteers to share their love of nature with children in the classroom, and Shelburne Farms which is a true champion for outdoor and agricultural education. At Shelburne Farms there’s a program for every age group, from pre-school right up to post-college residencies, and even one day on the farm can inspire a life-long love. I especially admire the Teen Naturalist program – it’s a tough age to engage, but such a critical one.
I have written at length in the past about the work of Richard Louv, author of The Nature Principle and Last Child in the Woods, and co-founder of the Children and Nature Network. Yet I still find it sad that we need a “Let’s G.O. (Get Outside) Month” or Nature Clubs for Families, but obviously we do.