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Connecting with nature on Nature Play Day

This Saturday, June 15, Canadians from across the country are encouraged go outdoors and play in nature. Nature Play Day, organized by the Child and Nature Alliance, focuses on encouraging kids, in particular, to get outside and play. In our busy, over-scheduled lives, it seems we have lost a very important part of childhood – unstructured playtime outside.

I’m not that old (yet) and after school my friends and I couldn’t wait to get home so we could go to the park and explore the forest trails. As long as we were home for dinner, we had the freedom to roam. As I got in my pre- and early teens, I spent my summers from morning-til-night at the farm where I kept my horse. There were a group of 6-7 girls that were hired each year to help out on the farm and “train” the horses by taking them on trail rides. Some days we’d ride 3 times a day. This was more than a hobby farm – the husband was a successful farmer, and the wife bred Arabian horses. The Homestead, as they called it, was home to over 200 horses, a resident donkey, 2 dogs, a multitude of barn cats, a few dairy cows and chickens. There were different horse pastures and so sometimes it took 45 minutes just to get your horse. It was great. We came home muddy and happy and were ready to do it all over again the next day.

But now it seems kids are losing out on spontaneous outdoor play. This infographic is very telling: it states that the average kid spends over 6 HOURS a day in front of a screen and only 6 MINUTES a day outside. You might need to read that again.

Last year for Nature Play Day, I went to my son’s daycare and talked to the kids about the animals that live in the area, and then took them on a nature walk. Since then, his teachers take the kids to the forest behind the school regularly - winter and summer. I am very fortunate to have found a great daycare that emphasizes outdoor, unstructured play. Even after he’s spent most of the day outside, the first thing he wants to do when he gets home is play in the backyard.

This year, my son wants to go the forest trails near our house. We haven’t been since winter when we went for a snowshoe (with him on my back), and there’s a great trail along the river, so if we’re lucky we’ll see some turtles and waterfowl.

Maybe you don’t need an excuse to get outside on Saturday, but why not take the opportunity to celebrate summer, slap on some sunscreen and a hat and get outside! Go in your backyard, take the kids to a park or splash pad, go for a hike, plant some flowers; no matter what it is, enjoy your time outside in nature!

Some tips for your Nature Play Day:

Tip #1: Don't be afraid to get dirty!

Tip #2: Don't forget the binoculars...


Tip #3: Go barefoot in the sand