NatureWize began only a few years ago when my own children were toddlers. As any parent can relate to, we seek the very best for our children, which includes the environment they grow and learn in. In a phone call to an old friend I described the challenges of raising my active boys in an urban environment, and that in China, where construction sites are endless. Without backyards and playgrounds, I had to carefully steer my boys out of the way of cars, potholes, or construction debris. Stepping or sitting on grass, climbing trees, or throwing rocks into the ponds was off limits in the community. I felt sad for my boys as these little things brought me such simple joy when I was a child.
My friend recommended I read Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods, which described this worldwide phenomenon for this generation, as well as the well-researched academic, physical and mental wellness benefits of time and play in nature. Most importantly, the book inspired me to seek out the nature spaces around us with other parents. That seemed easy enough, as well as fun. And the website created to support such families, the Children and Nature Network, provided all the tools to do so.
Thus began our first Family Nature Club, pre-NatureWize, which we registered later. Using the simple references, templates and checklists provided in the Children and Nature Network’s Nature Clubs for Families Toolkit, I simply called up a few other families for a picnic and kite-flying in a local park. Our family soon found natural areas were actually all around us, in other public parks on the edges of the city, in classic Chinese potted and rooftop gardens, not to mention orchards and the terraced rice paddies a little further out of the City.
We then started to regularly call other families to join us, and watched our children run and laugh in freedom. Every nature outing has been a joyful one, for all ages, during all seasons and weather. We sought a healthy environment for our children to develop naturally in, but we, the parents and grandparents, also found we were healed of urban stresses and found friendship with other families.
I urge you to seek out nature with your own families and friends. NatureWize has translated the Nature Clubs for Families toolkit into Chinese to help give our Chinese families confidence that you can also gather other friends to go along with you. Don’t wait for costly experts and organized tours. All you need are good shoes; your kids will bring along the curiosity. And, besides occasional entrance fees, your activity can be free of costs and very, very rich in rewards.