Afraid of the Outdoors?

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TGSG Note: I am thrilled to have a certified nature geek guest blogging for us today! My lovely friend Karen Wilde, a writer and lover of all things outdoors, has written a great post about getting our feet wet in the natural world and reconnecting with the part of ourselves that many of us have lost. As for me, I am off at the Children and Nature Network’s Grassroots Gathering in Keystone, CO, where I am sure to  hear lots of ideas to share with you all. Big thanks to Karen for sharing her knowledge and passion with us.

See ya outside! ~ The Grass Stain Guru

Nancy Heltman of Virginia State Parks wrote an excellent post about their Outdoors 101 program. It highlighted that many 20-40 year old parents have grown up during a period of technological and social change, “without a background in free-play and the outdoors”. Many parents feel “uncomfortable exposing their children to these concepts” because they never developed a curiosity for nature and the outdoors.

There is so much information available about the huge benefits of free-play but the very lack of structure that is fundamental to the concept can be frightening to some. To help to address this VSP created the Outdoors 101 program.

Structured programs can help make participants more comfortable in unknown surroundings. Like stabilisers [training wheels] on a first bike. One of the courses I work with in the UK involves a three day family camp in the beautiful Kent woodland. It is close enough to London to have a lot of city-folk arrive. Some nervous, some excited, some defensive. Each one leaves with a small part of themselves changed.

The part of ourselves that calls out to nature, whether it’s been a large part of our life or not, reaches out during those three days; feasting and growing on the immersion in the wild woodland. For some family members the connection strengthens into a resolve to carry on; to pursue a life with more access and fulfillment in nature. For others, an emotional release, not knowing why the tears appear but an abiding sense of loss, regret, joy for having made that connection again.

The families had already made the first step towards reconnecting to nature by making the phone call to book the course. But without the second step of instruction would the connection have been made so strongly?

I doubt it.

We don’t know everything. But, often, our children think we do. A parent who has grown up divorced from the concepts of free-play and the outdoors but wanting the very best for their child, reads an article about the many benefits of spending time in nature. But then fears creep in. What if I don’t know what that plant is, that bug is, how to do something? What if I look like an idiot in front of my child?

A structured course with plenty of free-play time can bring two generations (or more in the case of our last course) to nature together. The Family Bushcraft and Nature Awareness Course at Natural Pathways really gets nature under your fingernails!

Living in your own shelter (or tent if you prefer) the course gives practical experience and teaching in many aspects of bushcraft living. This is inter-mingled with games to increase nature awareness that many of the children continue to play after they get home, even getting friends and cousins involved. At night, sitting round the campfire with their children playing Fire Stalk, the adults get time to wind down and relax into the darkening green arms of the trees.

However you access nature in all its joyful, windy or rainy glory, let it in. Let it fill you up to the top till your hair starts tingling and a laugh erupts to join the sounds of the birds in the trees. Let others see your joy in nature, let them see you make an idiot of yourself – even if they are your kids – and maybe they will feel it too. That re-connection happens every single day to thousands of people. You are not alone.

Guest blogger bio: Karen Wilde is passionate about re-connecting to nature and living a wild life outdoors. She writes for the Natural Pathways blog and can often be found under a debris shelter in the Kent woodland. She also freelances and edits the Green Pepper website.

Creative Commons License photo credit: drinkyclown

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