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Over the years I have often had conversations with friends about connecting with nature and what it means for us and the children to be part of the natural world. I have taken the boys to all sorts of clubs and activities (they generally didn’t like them) and made a big effort to make sure they had “nature time”, I have also worried about not fitting into the “natural child” camp as we love our gadgets and the boys have no restrictions when it comes to screens and food.
I have recently realised that my way of thinking was very flawed. The natural world is not something that is “out there” unconnected to us, something we need to connect with every now and then. We are in the natural world, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat. We are part of this giant ecosystem, like it or not. I wanted to rethink our position inside this system. Taking the boys to the odd organised activity was not was it was about. I don’t think people need to be shown how to be in a “natural environment” like a wood, in fact I’ll go so far as saying that being guided through these environments takes away the joy of being, of discovering, of first hand experience. By all means I like the idea of children learning specific crafts in natural settings, if this is what the children feel the need for.
I have watched the boys live their outdoors experience as something not separate from the indoors one, to them the world is the world, walls don’t count. Wherever they are they like to experience their environment without restraint. They will walk and run through the woods, stop to pick up sticks, make patterns in the soil, observe the animals and try and interact with them. These experiences are part of who they are, as well as the experience of being in a house, painting, playing with the iPad. I don’t feel that one experience is more important than the other, the idea is to take enjoyment from them both, to be in the moment and really learn and feel.
Would I worry if they decided to spend most of their time indoors? Reuben did go through a period of anxiety when he felt safer at home, the need to limit his environment was driven by fear, so my job was not to force him outdoors but to make him feel safe. Having overcome some of his fears, he is now extremely happy to go to the woods, park, playground, beach, wherever.
I think that when we realise we are all interconnected, that we are nature, we will want to have a more hands on experience of it. Creating an artificial division between us and the natural works will lead to alienation, to not making the right choices for the future of our planet and our children. So I think the idea is not to think we are going outdoors to experience something different or special, we are going outdoors to enjoy the rest of our home, the Earth.
The photos in the gallery were taken on a walk in Oughtonhead common in Hitchin, the bowl with the strawberries we found near the stream.