Raising Nature-Loving Kids – A City Mom Wonders How

Are your kids more gadget oriented? This mom shares what she has done to keep her little one in touch with nature while living in the city
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Raising Nature-Loving City Kids.

Tiya was transfixed. As I held her up, she flapped her arms vigorously like a gangly little bird about to take to flight and shouted “C-LION! C-LIONS!” (that’s sea lions, for those uninitiated in toddler talk).

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Turning to my husband, I smiled. Standing there, on Pier 39 in San Francisco, watching the sea lions cavort, swim, grunt and growl, with our own little wide-eyed wonder, it now made sense.  Never mind the fact that we had just endured a 17-hour non-stop flight with an infant, our nerves were on the edge and we had stepped out of the plane tired grumpy and ready to kill each other.

When our daughter Tiya was small my husband and I concocted this crazy plan that we would take her to see all the animal migrations of the world in the first 5 years of her life. An expensive proposition for sure but it was perhaps just an excuse to get away from the crazy whirlwind of our day jobs and expose her as much as we could to nature.

And so, Tiya had seen her first tiger by the time she was six months old, stared awestruck at the flight of the monarch butterfly in California and watched cavorting humpbacked whales off the coast of Australia.

Over the next few years did a few more of the journeys, they were emotionally exhausting, financially depleting and of course completely unsustainable so we just gave up.

It started to bother me that would my kid’s exposure to nature was going to be a  pampered one- sitting in a jeep watching tigers or on a foreign vacation making sandcastles. Whatever happened to the simple everyday exposure to life in all its creepy-crawly forms? 

The fact is if you are a parent bringing up a child in the city, the access to nature or even wildlife is limited. You can send your kids to the fanciest schools, and keep them indoors so they don’t breathe the smog-filled air, but are we in the process of depriving them of life outdoors? 

Our wistful images from our childhood all involve some form of engagement with the outdoors. 

Climbing trees in my Nani’s home, stealing mangoes from the neighbour’s tree or that picnic in the hills where we had watermelons chilled on a small mountainside spring can still bring a smile on the most stressful days. 

My mother must have felt the same angst for us. When I was small, she installed a simple rubber tyre with a rope on the tree outside our house as a swing- we spent hours on that every day. The tree was on a busy public road – but that small gesture was her way of making sure we played outdoors and got our hands dirty. My interaction with the outdoors started in the mud patch outside my house where I watched ants walk in a file to the drain underground as I made imaginary homes for them. Sadly the same spot today is covered with concrete and the ants have long disappeared. 

Fed up with the lack of access to nature in the city I started the Mitti Project- a place where parents and kids could come to our site a small acre farm that we have developed on the outskirts of Delhi to play with mud, get up close with all creepy crawlies that visit our land and feel refreshed by their interaction with nature.

We are a working farm and are learning how to grow our food without chemicals.  We do weekend workshops on planting trees, growing vegetables and building scarecrows. I am amused at how little entertainment or supervision the kids visiting the farm need once they get their hands on some mud and water. 

So if you as a parent are struggling to do new things with your kids this weekend, junk the visit to the mall, plan a visit to a farm or a nature education centre in your city. 

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