Finding Nature in the City

Friday, April 27, 2012

Welcome to the April edition of the Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival, hosted by Authentic Parenting and Mudpiemama. This month’s topic is “Celebrating Our Earth - Green Living." Please scroll down to the end of this post to find a list of links to the entries of the other participants. Enjoy! 

In the city, where cars and concrete outnumber woods and wildlife, celebrating the natural world can take some creativity, forethought, and awareness. In our early days of homeschooling, I often found that my children were over-scheduled with classes, activities, and playdates that carved into the blocks of precious, unstructured time they needed to explore nature in the city. I had a choice: I could continue on the fast pace of an over-scheduled, structured childhood, or I could help us to slow down and re-focus my children's lives around the treasured triad of family, community, and the natural world. I chose the latter, and became vigilant about equally allocating and protecting time for each of these priorities.

Valuing and prioritizing free-range, unstructured time in nature for our children takes deliberate focus and monitoring. In Richard Louv's popular book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, he asserts: "It takes time -- loose, unstructured dreamtime-- to experience nature in a meaningful way. Unless parents are vigilant, such time becomes a scarce resource, because time is consumed by multiple invisible forces; because our culture currently places so little value on natural play." Reclaiming natural play for our children, choosing activities that engage our children with nature and teach them to learn from, care for, and grow within nature, is our role as natural parents.

Even in the city, we can seek and protect moments of natural play and discovery for our children. Most cities have well-kept and populated public parks, green spaces, zoos and nature centers, hiking and biking trails, and diverse waterways to spend hours immersed in nature. Just outside of most cities, often accessible by train or bus, are state and national parks and beaches that create additional natural learning opportunities for families.

There is plenty of nature to discover within your city limits! Here are a few simple suggestions for creating more opportunities for you and your children to connect together in the natural world:
  • Eat as many meals as possible outside, either at a park or green space, apartment balcony, deck, or yard.
  • Plan nap times around nature walks using your stroller or sling, offering a chance for your little one to sleep in the fresh air while you take some time to relax outdoors.
  • Take "nature sacks" with you on outdoor excursions to collect natural items.
  • Create a nature table in your home to place and observe natural items.
  • Get a bird feeder.
  • Grow a small city garden or start seedlings in a sunny window.
  • Take a magnifying glass and binoculars with you on city walks.
  • Find a camera for your child to take nature photographs.
  • Take a nighttime nature walk with your child to notice changes after sunset.
  • Find or create mud, dirt, sand and other messy materials for little hands to explore.
  • Read, paint, draw, and build outside.
  • Climb trees.
  • Go puddle-stomping.
  • Play with sticks.

Visit The Positive Parenting Connection and Authentic Parenting to find out how you can participate in the next Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
  • Jardin, Our Garden y Learning to Reciclar — Florecita at Florecita Growing Up intertwines family traditions with gardening and green living in a way that engages her 7yr old, 4yr old and 2yr old.
  • Nature Love — Alice Griffin Writings from the Wherever shares musings from a walk in the countryside with her young daughter and her hopes that by seeking out this closeness to nature, it will help her daughter to appreciate and care for the earth.
  • Online Green Resources For Children (and Parents Too) — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama links to several great online resources which help children learn about the importance of treating mother earth with love and respect.
  • Finding Nature in the City — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling shares simple ideas for celebrating nature with your children -- even in the city.
  • Get Green Quick: Goes Wrong — Megan at The Other Baby Blog writes humorously about her (failed) attempts to switch to natural cat litter.
  • Celebrating the Birds — Carrie at Love Notes Mamashares a dozen bird-lovin' ideas for you and your budding bird enthusiast.
  • 10 Steps to Cleaner Indoor Air  — Laura at Authentic Parenting gives a few simple tips t green up the air we breathe inside our homes.
  • Are Big Families Really the "New Green"?  — Michelle @ Grateful Moms of Many wonders how - and if - the tales our children hear influence their future
  • Toddler and Preschoolers Learning To Go Green: Six Ideas That Foster Respect for the Earth -- Mudpiemama from The Positive Parenting Connection shares six ideas for toddlers and preschoolers to learn about the importance of respecting the Earth.
  • Taking Responsibility for Our Food -- After noticing a disconnect regarding her children's view of food, Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children made it a goal for her family to work toward taking reposnibility for their own food and to live more sustainably.


  1. Great thoughts! So happy that you are sharing your experiences!

  2. Why don't I visit your blog more often? I love this post.

    Have you ever seen the book Puddles and Wings and Grapevine Swings? It is out of print now but Amazon sellers always have a few used for next to nothing. I grew up with that book and bought a copy for my son - tons of ideas for playing with nature. Going on bug safaris, treasure hunts, making sun tea, fun free stuff. Amazing book - your list totally reminded me of it.

  3. Wonderful ideas!! We are very fortunate to have a garden and a forest right near our home. My youngest has napped so often in the forest because we were all there playing, hiking, exploring... Thank you for sharing so many great ideas in our carnival!!

  4. I am really looking forward to meeting your family when you visit in July. Many of our visitors from cities don't spend lots of time outside like your family, so it takes them a while to get used to the idea of our wide open spaces. It will be fun to see your children enjoy the outdoors and nature in a country setting, on our farm. I have to wonder if you'll be able to get them away from the baby goats and bunnies though : )

  5. Love these photos and tips! I'm writing on behalf of the KEEN Recess Team. Recess is a rallying cry for kids and adults unplug, get outside and make their own playground. Thanks for spreading the word about the importance of outdoor play!

    KEEN Recess