Teaching children about nature

ImageAs a child, you rarely can fully grasp all the lessons and support that your parents aim to give you – consciously or not – for the future. Very often, for a long time, we can be at least confused and unhappy with a busy travel schedule that may trouble our need for relaxing and, eventually, some more time to try the newest computer game.

When I grew up, I did not have TV or computers or any distractions and for many summers in a row, I went to the countryside where the main activity was to do almost daily easy and medium mountain tours. Without a clear deadline to be back home – the clearest mention I used to receive early in the morning when I was ready for the adventure was ‘before it gets dark’, but in the summer it usually gets very late – and no cell phones to be called, I was experiencing the full freedom spending time with the mountain guides or older relatives used to live in the middle of the nature. When my stepfather was not busy enough, he used to take me and my brother to long trips: for two days, we were jumping as wild goats from a rock to another, climbing trees and finding refuge in shepherd’s houses. We were always carrying some home-made food and enough water supplies and after a frugal picnic on the grass, we were heading to the next destination, with some small stops for picking up strawberries or blueberries or raspberries. In the evening, we were very tired that we were up to sleep around 9 in the evening in order to be ready for a new hiking experience the next early morning. Of course that not all of our trips were a sample of pure peace or understanding. Sometimes I wanted to go in the park with my mother who, as a special lady, she never enjoyed such wild trips, instead of walking on a rocky mountain – but the trip was prepared many weeks in advance and we religiously respected the plan; sometimes I was afraid of stories about wild animals attacking tourists – none happened to us by far; sometimes I just wanted to stay in the garden and do nothing – almost impossible with such an active family. Looking back right now, I think that those summer holidays were one of the best in my life: no worries, a lot of physical activity, freedom and a lot of daydreaming while watching the clouds and the beautiful flowers around.

After a while, we stopped having such long summer, the kids grew up and preferred to go out with their friends – I did in my late teens some long mountain hiking as well, in the Swiss Alps especially, but the fully happy kid was missing from the landscape. The lessons are always there and thus, there are a couple of reasons to fully recommend introducing more and more mountain and nature travel in general for children:

– It has a very important educational role: you get used with your aim, how to reach it and how much patience do you need;

– Learning orientation skills: you may not spend the rest of your life in the woods, but the sooner you have the proper skills the better for your daily modern life. The life in the city can be more challenging than in the mountains, believe me.

– The natural alternative: nowadays the kids grow up with a lot of technique in their lives. It is good and it creates new skills but some breaks from the computer can offer a different side of life. At the end of the day, it is important to know all the sides of the coin. 

– It increases independent thinking and self-awareness. Although you may travel with a group – as I always did and do – you are the one responsible for your part of the road. Maybe someone has some troubles or you are on the wrong path or a storm outburst and you need to hurry up to decide what to do next. 

Never give up. You will cope a lot with mumbling and protests and maybe some tears too. Keep up the schedule and continue. Most likely later on they will be thankful for everything. Or at least, I am.