I may have found a solution to happy parenting any maybe even some of the world’s problems. Let kids climb trees and eat unwashed, self-picked apples. What could be better? What would childhood be without tree climbing, apple picking, fort building and general Swiss Family Robinson style exploration?
As a garden educator I work with people of all ages but children are by far my most enthusiastic pupils. The marvel of planting a seed and watching it grow can be counted on, but so too is the sheer love of dirt. When learning about soil we go digging. A child digging, head down and trowel forgotten while hands work the soil, as if the rest of the world has disappeared, is like a pirate stumbling upon a pile of gold. And when learning about animals it’s an adventure. We all have a chance to explore, wonder and sit quietly, watching and waiting. Our patient study of animals often leads to creating habitats — set the stage and ask a child to build a nest or home for a real or imagined creature and you’ll find screen time can’t compete.
Collectively these moments teach us about nature, ourselves and each other in nature. The human spirit is bolstered and a deep, earthly confidence grows. This is coined by some as nature literacy. Being in nature, understanding the language of nature is like learning any other language and, like a language, it’s best learned when young. What will happen if our children miss out on this opportunity?
My passion for gardening has grown in large part because of it’s immediate connection to nature, cultivated with the intention of letting it run wild, or letting myself and children run wild within it. And open spaces, in and out of the garden, give all of us the room we need to soar — or at least climb trees and eat unwashed, self-picked apples.