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Letting Children Have a Natural Childhood

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There are times when we like to look back to a bygone age when everything was rosy in the garden. It seems that the onward march of progress has diminished the value of the things that we hold dear. And we worry about the impact that this is having on individuals and the community.

For many people this is all about nostalgia and memory but there are cases when there is a strong factual truth in learning the lessons from history.

A report published by the National Trust earlier this year pinpointed that the current generation of kids growing up are losing touch fast with the natural world.

Experts and commentators have been in broad agreement that something needs to be done before it's too late and that the parents of today don't want to be the generation that let their children become totally removed from nature.

There are many reasons why, almost unnoticed, children have begun to drift away from connecting with wildlife and the outdoors; something, which had for generations, come so naturally. Many of them are societal, such as the volume of traffic on our roads or over enforcement of health and safety regulations. Some are related to the gradual loss of green spaces where kids can play and spend time soaking up the wonder of the natural world.

We often like to blame technology as the harbinger of change creating a generation of kids glued to the telly or playing on their computer. But technology can be part of the solution in getting children engaged in the joy of wildlife, enticing them outside to experience the real thing.

So, how do we bring about real and concrete change, moving on from debating the challenges that we face? How do we reclaim a sense of nature as something for everyone to enjoy?

It will take time but there is a growing movement of people and organisations that want to make a difference and work together to help connect children with the outdoors and that spending time enjoying what nature has to offer is a good thing.

Making nature part of children's everyday experience is a simple and effective way of plugging them into the world around them. Children are naturally inquisitive and love to explore; it's about getting them hooked and excited about the simple things. It could be about watching ants marching to their nests, snails clinging to a wall or birds singing in a tree.

This can be done on the way to school, at a local park or in a back garden. And the beauty is that you don't need to be an expert in nature to have an appreciation of wildlife.

Schools have a key role to play too. Injecting a sense of play and discovery into the school day can help children wide range of subjects on the curriculum and it can be done without creating a huge mountain of extra work for teachers.

Nature can neatly cut across boundaries whether the science of nature or describing what you see in a local wood or park as part of English homework. Some schools run Forest Schools or clubs after school, often thanks to the dedication of a passionate teacher, and naturalists can help too in inspiring the next generation.

A conference being in London is looking at how we bring about sustained change that can help begin the journey to connecting kids and nature. This is way beyond the capability of one organisation; it's going to take a grand coalition of organisations and the passion of people to create a movement for change where spending time in the outdoors and closer to nature becomes the norm rather than the exception.