Girls discovering nature in a fieldkids running photo

There was a time . . . when the children playing outside, climbing trees, wading in ponds and creeks and hiding in tall grass fields was a common occurrence. They left their homes in the morning returned for a quick lunch, often eaten outdoors, and then returned to the woods, fields and ponds until evening voices called them to supper. In those special places they encountered insects, birds, mammals. They made bouquets of wildflowers, built forts and even got dirt under their finger nails.

There was a time . . . when children knew their home range well. They created special names "The crooked tree", "Three pines", and the "Cow field" and all the kids in the neighborhood could direct you to these places not with street names, but by a variety of natural markers. They drew maps of secret rendezvous, adventures, and hidden treasure identifying the creeks, trees and hills along the way.

There was a time . . . not long ago!

Today . . . children spend less than 30 minutes a week in unstructured outdoor play. The total range for children playing and wandering outdoors is one-ninth of what is was for current adults. Much of this reduction is due to competition from electronic media, structured sports and activities and the concerns of parents letting kids roam free unsupervised. Ask a child to draw a map of their area and most would be able to identify few natural landmarks beyond their backyard. "It is clear that unstructured outdoor and nature play today is becoming less and less relevant to children", says Raymond Rustem with the Department of Natural Resource's Outreach and Education Unit.

The Department is encouraging kids, educators, parents, guardians and mentors to help mend the child-nature connection. We hope you find the information on these pages and additional web links useful.