When we think of exploring the great outdoors, each of us has Mother Nature’s greatest hits running through our minds. Maybe it’s a mountain peak, a cascading waterfall, a bubbling brook, a sandy beach, or a mossy canyon.
Getting to know these majestic wild places is a logistical challenge, especially with kids. For most of us, planning numerous wilderness excursions to nature’s greatest hits is out of the question. Sure, we can handle an annual family camping trip, but for us, it’s not an easily repeated experience — and certainly not one that we can replicate every weekend.
So maybe it’s time we change our definition of nature’s greatest hits. Maybe it’s time we embrace our backyards and local city parks as part of the epic natural world. Because, really, they represent nature’s beauty, resilience, and ingenuity every bit as much as that untouched mountain peak.
When we dig in our soil to plant a tomato plant, our kids find worms and feel Mother Nature’s dirt underneath their finger nails. When we chalk the sidewalk, our kids spot the flower that improbably found a way to blossom through a crack. When we laze in the grass, our kids find themselves mesmerized by the busy bumblebees hovering over wild mint leaves.
The truth is, whether your live in a city, on a farm, on the coast, in a mountainous valley, or along a desert plateau, epic nature is all around us. And it’s worth noticing, cherishing, learning to love.
All too often, we define “nature” as something that exists separate and apart from our daily lives. Nature is that 14,000-foot mountain peak; nature is that lonely coastline; nature is that cascading waterfall. We escape into nature, and then return to our homes seemingly disconnected from the natural world.
At an intuitive level, we see the fallacy of this mindset. As human beings, we exist within nature, not outside of it. Nonetheless, we sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that, for nature to exist, it must be an instagramable experience.
So, this summer, let’s reclaim nature in our day-to-day routines. Let us see the world around us with the fresh eyes of childhood. Let us notice nature’s little gems all around us. Let’s expand our definitions of nature’s greatest hits.
If we wish to raise children who become responsible stewards of the Earth, we must first endow them with a deep respect and reverence for Mother Nature’s daily goodness. It can start by embracing the natural world — not just during an annual camping trip — but outside the front door too.