It is possibly the easiest thing to do for a child to entertain itself in Nature. With all its immense diversity, unusual things, and the adventurous spirit, Nature captivates us all. It can awaken the childlike curiosity in all of us, don’t you agree?
Video games and TV, they can be life-savers, can’t they? First aid for those times when you just don’t have the energy. You don’t need me to say if they are bad or good. I’m here to offer a solution, not point out a problem. Before the era of electronics, Nature was in the space that video games now occupy and boy! was it a good thing.
Why do you think though that we find it hard to allow our children out in Nature? As folks in the city, we face some very valid concerns. The garbage lying around, the need to watch out for stranger danger, even the lack of Nature play spaces impact our young ones. Here are some smart tips or skills you can teach your kids to circumvent all this.
1. Don’t be afraid to get dirty, just wash well after
Allow your child to touch the plants, to smell the soil, to go barefoot, to sleep on the grass (The only thing to watch out for is pesticide and chemicals. Stay far away from places where they are used). In fact, encourage it, show them how by doing it yourself. Just make a pact with them. Shake hands solemnly and together make a promise that before you eat anything, you will wash up well.
2. Teach them caution, not fear
We will all get hurt at some point, prick ourselves with some thorns, get stung by a bee. Isn’t it funny how sometimes, it hurts more if our child get stung than if we are? The thing is if we are watching where we put our hands and legs, if we are listening to what is happening around us, being aware; it is incredibly unlikely that we get hurt.
Coach yourself, and your child to do that, to simply, pay attention and not be scared. The body was made to be out in nature.
3. Take full advantage of even the littlest bits of greenery
You will be surprised how much of a thriving ecosystem we have in the city. Have you ever sat really still on an open terrace at sunrise? The birds will fill the sky! Or take the little parks that we have every now and then in Bangalore, or our lakes, they are filled with many species of plants and trees. I often take a whole hour to walk down my street because I am saying hello to every plant and wild weed.
4. Participate fully, be a child yourself
Our children are fantastic mimics, like blotting paper, they simply absorb everything we do. So don’t ask them to explore, don’t push them out of the house and say,”go play,” show them how. You will notice that whatever amount of time it is that you are doing that, whether a few minutes or a few hours, will make a slow and steady change in your life too. You will be more peaceful, more alive, happier because you are allowing your natural selves to come forward.
5. Company always helps
Form a neighbourhood club, you will be able to help each other out. It isn’t always possible to take your child out. But what if we used the same mechanism that car-pooling involves? The moment you pool resources with like-minded people, new possibilities will open up.
6. Start a mini garden
The joy of growing a new being and the joy of eating what you grew is unparalleled. I’ve always wondered if it is so much stronger in us Indians because so many of our ancestors were farmers. Well, no matter what the reason, kids take to gardening like duck to water. Mind you, to start with, they will probably forget watering it frequently, let weeds grow wild and get dirt in unlikely places. But, if you celebrate their harvests and show that you think the garden is entirely theirs and that you have no say in it, they will soon start to own it.
7. Start a journal
Whether it is a sketch or a pressing or a tree autograph or even a poem. If your child starts to tell his or her story of nature through their journal, it will seem even more important for them to have nature experiences. To get them involved here, give them interesting stationary, allow them to feel they own it and maybe you should inspire them by having a journal too.
8. Allow a junk corner
Ah the stuff I have picked up on my many walks and treks and treasures that money can never buy. Make a pact with your child. Say, that it is perfectly ok for him or her to bring in Nature junk. It just has to go in this particular space. Whether you want to display it or keep it in neat boxes, anything.
9. Make Nature the reward, not the punishment
Remember not to force them out. Tempt them. Make it so it is a reward to be exploring with plants and nature.
10. Keep in touch with us
We meet so many people on this journey to reconnect. Our Fun with Plants at Cubbon Park could also be a nice way to check in with the PlantiZen community. Put your email in on the link above, and we will mail you whenever we have our next “Planty” get together.
Have fun! Hope you and your child have an amazing time in nature. If you have some stories to share with us, please don’t hesitate to do it here.
This post was originally written for BuzzingBubs.com