WILD CHILD: Inviting Urban Nature Back into Children’s Lives

We are most definitely living unprecedented times with new generations that are spending much of their time indoors and too many of their interactions are hollow and ripe with digital interactions.There is growing recognition that children are disconnected with others, and their surroundings which makes them feel “alienated from nature.”[1] This is also known as ‘nature-deficit disorder,’ a term used to describe the adverse personal and societal impacts of disconnecting from nature, [2]  which is taking a toll on children’s health and well-being.  This separation from nature, however, is an unintended consequence of our modern world, and it is OUR responsibility to generate changes for future generations. This is especially relevant when one considers that 81.48% of the total population in Canada lives in cities.[3] How do we invite nature back into our lives and spark enough desire in children to willingly want to be/play and even interact with nature in their neighborhood? As a proud mother of two children and a Wild Child educator, I believe it is our responsibility to provide children with the possibility to explore and experience nature on a daily basis. I feel compelled to help younger generations build a personal and powerful connection with the natural world that will hopefully shift their sentiment and values about nature and create ties to the land they live in.Research shows that “Kids need to experience discomfort so that they can learn to work through it and develop their own problem-solving skills.”[4]  Wild Child encourages kids to embrace risks to learn to push themselves outside of their comfort zone and build resilience skills that will serve them throughout their lives. Now more than ever we need to provide opportunities to help children find healthy ways to express their emotions and develop a mindset to prepare them for the future.Wild Child creates opportunities for active exploration of the local environment and constructs deep environmental knowledge of the world around us, even while living in an urban setting. Wild Child empowers families to shift toward slowing down life’s pace and take the time to go outside to discover natural areas in their community and reconnect with their own local habitats. Our ultimate goal is to enable children to feel at ease and comfortable in nature. Wild Child allows children to be ‘in” nature and to develop the capacity to be ‘with’ nature and start to notice the small but amazing life around them.  As they start to get involved with these spaces and connect with them, they then will start to feel attached to nature, and enable our children to start to take care ‘for’ our environmentIf you agree there is an instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems, an intuitive “love of life”[5] then let’s ALL do our part to invite urban nature back into children’s lives and create awareness of nature just around the corner of our homes.Paulina RetamalesWild Child Coordinator – Edmonton[1] https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-38094186[2] https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_protect_kids_from_nature_deficit_disorder[3] https://www.statista.com/statistics/271208/urbanization-in-canada/#:~:text=In%202014%2C%20almost%2082%20percent,their%20boundaries%20help%20fuel%20the[4] https://www.psycom.net/build-resilience-children[5] https://www.britannica.com/science/biophilia-hypothesis