Bring our Children back to Nature…is that so hard?


I turn 61 this year and although my childhood was almost half a century ago I still have vivid and fond memories of being in the country and exploring nature.

To remind me of those days is a large painting of a young girl and boy in a river catching sticklebacks with a small net and jam jar. It is in my brother’s house and it takes pride of place above the fireplace. I know my brother bought it because it reminded him of when we were young and used to trawl the rivers for small fish.

My summer memory is a vivid one of running among the clusters of daffodils that surrounded the cathedral in the local town. Then there is the feeling of sand between my feet as we ran up over the dunes of the beach chasing and hiding among the scattered dune grass that provided us with cover.

I remember the excitement of adventure when my father told us we were moving to Africa. We dreamed of fierce lions and elephants and my brothers and I would sit for hours and ponder on the wildness of the country we were moving too. Our stories were exaggerated ones of bravery and intrigue.

Africa was wonderful. The smells, the wildlife and the closeness to the natural world changed us as children. As my father was a Vet we lived in very rural situations.The different tribes of Africans affected us, their simplicity and joy in all kinds of situations made us very appreciate teenagers who looked at life with a global perspective and a thirst for knowledge of anything that moved and was deemed wild and interesting. It’s no wonder that I became a Biology and Animal Health lecturer and one brother became an Ecologist.

I grew up with nature and I still crave it. I think about children today and their learned priorities of socializing on the computer or playing games. Their time with nature sometimes seems organized instead of natural and that is a real shame.

Children today suffer from many physical and mental problems that could be helped by encouraging our children to experience nature. In N. Ireland where I live I hear of a teenage suicide every few months.

What brings someone so young to those depths?

Nature takes away our stresses.When we walk in a forest the trees and the plants disperse out negative energy. The smells affect our brains making us feel good and the exercise reduces our waistline. In the UK 28% of girls aged 2-10 are now obese and the figure has doubled since 1998. We push our Education system to achieve excellence at the expense of our natural being. Research has shown that playing in a natural environment improves a child’s concentration,social and mental development and physical and mental health.

Maybe if we got that right first the rest would follow.