By Environmental Educator Kirsten Dallimore
Originally published in Island Parent April 2018 (pg.68-69)
There is a special generation of people that might just hold a magical key in helping to get kids connected with nature. The people I’m thinking about are grandparents.
Yes, that’s right—a grandparent has a unique opportunity to be that amazing person in a child’s life that enables them to get out into the natural world. Recognizing the role that our older generation plays in mentoring deep nature connection within our communities is something I think we need to place greater value on.
For some families, it is the time that children spend with their grandparents that provides them the space to explore in a less structured free play environment. Free play in nature is where deep nature connection is rooted. Free play allows for greater opportunities to explore and experience on our own the things that interest us in nature. A child can form a significant connection to a place during free nature play.
When children visit the home of a grandparent, they often find themselves without their usual weekly activities and with fewer distractions from the types of technology devices they access at home. Some kids may say they are bored, but little do they know what is waiting for them in the garden or down a nearby trail.
There is a world of adventure outside waiting to be explored and that sometimes requires inter-generational support to find. Wisdom, patience and time to play in nature is what children need for full nature connection, and grandparents can often play that role.
Grandparents, why not start by creating a special place in the garden for your grandchildren to start exploring? A new nature nook could be anything from a small garden to some new bird feeders in the backyard that will invite some feathered creatures in for bird watching opportunities. Planting a garden or digging a hole for a new tree in the yard provides a chance for kids to become active and immersed in a project that is natural and in a familiar place.
Taking the grandkids to a local park or the beach for exploration and play is always fun and exciting. If you are looking for an organized event, I recommend attending a CRD Regional Parks event for an educational guided outing. Taking your grandkids outside might just be the key to unlocking a new passion.
Growing up, I had a wonderful opportunity to connect to a special nature spot with my Nana. I don’t think she ever considered herself be much of a nature person, but she undoubtedly was. Although my Nana was not by any means a seasoned camper, she loved going for walks along the river where she lived. I always loved going for walks and swimming in wild places, and so did my dog. Our deep nature connection grew in that place we shared along the banks of the Credit River in Glen Williams, Ontario. Many hot summer days were spent splashing around in the river and climbing over rocks.
A few years ago when I returned home after a long journey away, we went to our nature spot along the river together one more time. My Nana sat on a bench by the bank and watched as my golden retriever and I ran into the cold rushing water. I always loved sitting on the rocks in the middle of the river and letting the rapids come up and swirl all around me, imagining they might just carry me away.
The role of elders in a community is to take on the role of storyteller and guide for the younger generation. Nature often sparks stories of our own time spent out in the wild that can be shared with the younger generation.
One of the best places to share your own nature stories is when you are out together embracing and creating a new nature adventure story. I encourage you to share with your children and grandchildren your own stories about spending time in nature when you were younger. This is a wonderful way to bond and develop a common interest while inspiring kids to create their own adventures.
It doesn’t have to be complicated or take place far away. Just be ready to go out and discover something new and exciting together with your grandkids.
So, what are you waiting for? This spring could be the perfect time for grandparents to invite their grandchildren out for an adventure into the wild.