Who amongst us is able to go back in time and see the world as a child again?
Can we think back to where we played outdoors, how things looked, how they smelled? The place we made our games, our stories and ourselves.
The Earth was your home, your environment – every time you stepped outside you were an explorer discovering that world. You were a scientist in action, finding out how this home, this universe worked.
Today I wonder, when your children go outside what do they discover? Are there places for them to tune into the magic of life? Have we adults done our job and created an outdoor environment for children that will interest and excite them?
Young children use their senses – each one gives them information about their environment. How does it feel, how does it sound, what does it look like, how does it smell? In our gardens, are there spaces with tactile surprises for children to discover? Are there fragrantly flowering fruit trees, masses of herbs or scented pelargoniums to provide a wide variety of the spice of life? Are there places for birds and insects to find habitats to add their chorus of voices to those of the children? Are there fruit or vegetables that they can pick and devour?
Beauty and surprise should be everywhere in front of children. The natural world is full of interesting patterns and changing images that all inspire curiosity.
There is no doubt that the natural world offers infinite opportunities for wonder and learning. We have developed environmental education because we believe in the power of nature to teach and inspire.
I am involved with the Garden to Table scheme at Silverdale School and we are proud of the role that the project plays in schools, providing rich opportunities to weave gardening, vegetables and cooking into the lives of children, while increasing the children’s confidence and sense of pride and responsibility.
But walk outside your gate and look around at the parks and vacant spaces. If you were trying to develop in children a love of the outdoors, you would find very few opportunities there. Many of the playgrounds are filled with metal or plastic climbing apparatus surrounded by plastic or wood chips. When will we wake up to the fact that a natural playscape makes creative use of the space?
Can we meet the challenge and create beautiful, engaging outdoor environments both at home and in the wider community for children?