“Your daughter, whatever her age, is a wild creature, and needs to be in the rhythms, textures, seasons and peace of nature.
An overgrown garden she can build cubbies in, pets she can cuddle and love – and even see die – and big landscapes of beaches and hills to run in. They are all essential to her mental health. Kids learn calmness in nature, away from screens and the jangling artificial world. Nothing in nature is saying be thin, be pretty, be rushed.” Steve Biddulph captures my truth as a mother and a woman right there.
Im a 32 year old woman, mother, wife, farmer and artist who is passionate about giving children access to the natural world for a childhood rich in beauty and connection. I live with my husband Ali, our son River 2 and daughters Winter 5 & Lily 9 on our organic farm ‘Forest’s End’ in the Adelaide Hills. I have always been passionate about and connected to nature and as the seasons of my life have changed in motherhood this connection has deepened. In this rapidly changing world in which we live our children’s lives are becoming more and more disconnected from the wild within them and the natural environment that supports us. I am dedicated to empowering my family, other parents and communities to embrace a sense of wonder for wilderness.
Have you noticed how your child plays and interacts when you are in nature? Their sense of self, wonder, reverence and awe? I have. The freedom and instinctual behaviours that emerge when children are able to explore a forest, grassland, the beach, a creek or climb a tree are nothing short of incredible. What about yourself? What does it do to you when you get to feel the warm sun on your face or smell and hear the bush or forest around as you walk through it. I know for me personally it brings me back into my body and simply existing in it is uplifting soul food.
There are countless books (read Last Child In The Woods by Richard Louv), studies and articles written on the benefits of being in nature and decreasing screen time for children’s mental and physical wellbeing. Lifting ourselves and our families out of the indoor sedentary lifestyle that has become our social norm will increase your health and happiness, that’s the reality. Schools too are following suit and are decreasing screen time, planting forests, bringing back wooden playgrounds and so on.
And of course businesses/collectives are emerging in response to encourage nature play/mud play/forest bathing and so many fantastic initiatives to encourage a connection for children to nature. You may have attended one of these days or heard about it in your community and these are brilliant facilitators to introduce a sense of understanding and accessibility to something that I and many believe is crucial for our kids development. I too have begun open days for children and parents to come and find freedom, joy, understanding and inspiration in their interaction with nature. I was blown away because I had hundreds of messages from people looking to participate. And it is such a wonderful thing to be part of, seeing children move their bodies and immerse themselves in the natural world. Building confidence, taking risks, noticing the details and beauty around them with vigour.
But in truth you don’t need an organised day or even have a huge back yard (or own a farm!) to find space to connect to nature, of course it is incredible to have access to these things but not a necessity. We tend to over complicate life for our children and ourselves and give greater importance to things of monetary value rather than the simple joys and the profound lessons that come from being in nature with our kids. There are free national parks worldwide, stretches of coast, forests, woodlands, bush, desert, wilderness…a tree to climb in the fresh air can be enough. It’s about slowing down their and our lives and seeking the space to give them, our worlds future, the freedom to interact with nature.
My children have led me down this path, of self belief, of embracing wildness, the different seasons of my life and of accepting and respecting simplicity. Recently I was talking with my daughters about how we’ve been so full of work on the farm that we still haven’t gotten time to build them a swing or a cubby house…they responded beautifully with “Mama we have swings all over the farm and cubby houses, because we made them”. And that’s when it clicked for me. Give them the space and the freedom in nature to connect with it and they will make that connection and they will thrive. There are of course necessary boundaries and safety precautions and logistical realities but you get my point.
You don’t need to know how to build a perfect teepee to play with your children in nature, you and they CAN simply play and be. Of course how amazing if you do know how to make a full teepee and maybe you can teach me…or teach yourself and then teach your children. Over the past 9 years I’ve taught myself how to weave, whittle with a pocket knife, build and cook on fires, grow a vegetable garden and embrace simplicity. I’ve done this through reading books, asking friends and watching other people (and sometimes even YouTube).
Give a child an indoor centred youth of television characters and they’ll form a connection to them; give them exposure to the natural world and the seasons and they will form connections to nature. Something incredible I’ve experienced along my own journey is that by encouraging my children to connect to nature I’ve breathed life and meaning into my adulthood and am learning, growing and thriving alongside them. Mama this is within you and nature is an incredible teacher.
I’m Bec – woman, mother of 3, wife, farmer and artist who lives on an organic farm and soul sanctuary ‘Forest’s End’ in the Adelaide Hills. I’m passionate about being connected to nature and living a creative, conscious and beautiful life growing ourselves, our food, family and community.