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Values & Education

Getting kids to commune with nature


Life nowadays is not as simple for children as it used to be during our childhood days. It is a lot more complex – in many different ways. People are a lot more wary of each other, of things, of being permissive when it comes to children and their actions. The more I see it, the more it seems as though just about everything is rule-bound for kids now.

I’d been for a jog in the park the other day. It was an idyllic day – blue skies, a gentle breeze blowing across, doves peacefully sitting around, some little butterflies taking flight from one flower before settling on another, the noisy cicadas creating a huge racket somewhere amongst the abundance of plants and trees, their noise interrupted at fairly regular intervals by the chirping of birds.

There were many toddlers and little children in the park too, all adding life to things there, in their own little ways. Now when there are little people around, things are bound to get boisterous owing to them being natural little explorers. They would not hesitate to pick a flower up from the ground and marvel at the colors in the flower even if it has been stepped upon by someone. They wouldn’t hesitate to stick their nose into the flower to see if it had a fragrance even if the flower had ants running on it. They would not think twice before sinking their little feet into freshly watered grass or the early morning grass with dew on it, to enjoy the coolness and the little tickles – a special feeling that only wet grass can evoke. They would, by nature, not hesitate to dip their hands into the fish pond in an attempt to try and touch the fish or even feel the mushiness of the moss. But the regimentation that we see now does not allow any room for the natural sense of exploration that children are born with – especially when it comes to the outdoors and nature.

Things now are much more restricted. Children spend most of the day at school and then there is homework to contend with plus the extra classes that they attend. It hardly leaves them any time for themselves, to imagine, to explore. Children nowadays are being pretty much robbed of something that was considered a given a few decades back – of communing and connecting with nature.
There is such sedate beauty and such ample and abundant grace about Mother Nature and childhood is enriched because of her. While it is something to read and absorb or to see pictures and relish one’s eyes on the treasures that Mother Nature has to offer mankind, it is a totally different kind of pleasure to be able to totally revel in it.

Life now is zipping past at such breakneck speed that the younger generation has no choice but to keep up with the pace. At the same time, small things that used to spur children’s imagination a few decades ago are pretty much obsolete now.
I remember when we were little kids, there used to be plenty of little flower buds basking in the glory of the morning sun. We used to stare at them in the morning during our school holidays and now looking back, those buds hung low on the stems of the plant heralding new hope, new beginnings. A few twigs, a few stones, some stray bricks would pretty much lead to a bunch of children focusing on the task at hand and building a fort or a house of sorts, which would later come in use when kids went out to play in the evenings.

Long gone are those days. The closest kids now come to building a house would be something on their phone screens – pixelated bricks and what have you. The closest contact a child has with a pet is through electronic devices. The hands-on approach has pretty much disappeared. I think kids nowadays need to be consciously taught to enjoy the outdoors and the multitude of experiences that it has to offer.

Integrating nature into children’s lives will also go a long way in helping them learn to respect nature. It will help them learn how inter-dependent the relationship between humans and the habitat is. As this planet of ours becomes more polluted by the day, as species of plant and animals grow endangered or extinct, the role that each and every one of us should be playing in protecting nature will further be strengthened by the inclusion of the younger generations in the endeavor.

We still hold on dearly to all those memories, don’t we ? The sheer freedom and pleasure of walking out on a rainy day without an umbrella, of hopping in those water puddles, of staring at rows and rows of ants at their industrious best and trying to trace their ‘home’, of staring at the colourful butterflies and wondering how those dainty creatures ‘fed’ on flowers, of marveling at caterpillars and their multiple legs and many more of nature’s wonders. It’s time the current generation did, too. Yet again, like I said before, it is not the children who shy away from exploring but the many restrictions that are laid on them in the world of today.

Like Terry Krautwurst once said,
“Our challenge isn’t so much to teach children about the natural world, but to find ways to nurture and sustain the instinctive connections they already carry.”

Gauri Venkitaraman dons many hats – a wife, a mom, a teacher and many more. Working as a full-time English teacher in HongKong, Gauri also raises and nurtures two terrors, affectionately known as The Nutty Siblings a.k.a Macadamia, a teen and Pecan, the ten-year old who behaves like he is fifteen. Gauri’s family means the world to her. Life is a lively roller coaster ride and we, as a family, aim to enjoy the ride together. is where Gauri pens down her thoughts and musings, in an attempt to preserve memories for posterity.