The Importance of the Outdoors

I recently came across some startling news. Words such as acorn, buttercup, otter, and fern were being removed from the Oxford Junior Dictionary and are being replaced with the likes of chatroom, blog, voicemail, and celebrity.

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Why is this so startling to me? Well the Oxford Junior Dictionary is geared towards children, those around 7 or 8 years old. When updating the dictionary, they came to a consensus to remove these words related to nature and replace them with words related to technology. They felt these new words were more relevant to children nowadays.

Now are you starting to understand why I am so startled? Children cannot find relevance in their lives to acorns but do find relevance with celebrities? Children don’t know what buttercups are, but are familiar with blogs? What is happening to our future generations that they such strong ties to technology but so little connection with nature?

Now I am not some hippy-dippy person who is all about communing with nature. I have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. I spend a lot of time on the internet. I read a lot of blogs (and duh, I have a blog of my own that you are currently reading). I have an iPhone which I carry with me everywhere. I am not swearing off technology by any stretch of the imagination. And even as a child I was fascinated by technology. I desperately wanted a computer growing up and I used to pretend an old cooler was a computer (the top of the cooler had little squares on it that looked like a keyboard). I loved playing with walkie talkies. I had little learning devices that looked like laptops. Technology was very much an interest of mine.

But despite that interest I still found myself outdoors all. the. time. I would create little “houses” and “forts” for myself out in the woods behind my house. I found flat stones to create the floor of my outdoor home. I used sticks and rocks to create tools. Leaves became my bed. I dreamed of living out there one day. I also pretended I could speak to animals. That I was a fairy queen. I put flowers behind my ear and frolicked around my yard pretending that I could influence the weather and plants around me. I looked for salamanders under rocks. I hid among the tall grasses and ferns. I tried to catch butterflies. I scooped up caterpillars regularly hoping I would see them bind themselves in their cocoon. Some of the clearest memories I have are the ones where I am imagining and playing outdoors. The ones where I took nature and created a world of my own. Where the top of an acorn became a plate for a fairy. Where a rabbit wasn’t just an animal but a friend. Where a clearing in the bushes became my home.

I loved playing outdoors and imagining all these wild adventures for myself. And it breaks my heart to think the next generation of children are losing that connection to nature. That they won’t hold a buttercup under a friends chin and ask “do you like butter?” That they won’t pick a dandelion and blow to make a wish. That they won’t use the leaves of a fern as a makeshift fan. Instead today’s children will spend their days being captivated by celebrities. Be fascinated by YouTube. Be enthralled with blogs and chatrooms. And be cut off from the wonders of nature and imagination.

I know I have an undeniable appreciation for nature due to my experience with it in childhood. I can only hope I will be able to instill the same kind of wonder and awe of Mother Earth in my children one day. Until that day comes I will do my best to appreciate it myself and share my appreciation with those around me.

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