Tag Archives: Children connecting with nature

Mount Ranier National Park and The Santa Express

I love the Winter holidays here.  There are long bank holidays on festivals we either don’t celebrate or have a quiet time at home because there are no family visits to pack in.  This gives us a lot of time to explore the area. The weather isn’t warm but there is so much to see and do here that looks beautiful in any weather.

For Thanksgiving weekend we took the family on a trip to Mount Ranier National Park and for a ride on Mount Ranier Scenic Railway ‘s Santa Express.

We entered the park at Longmire rather than the larger entrance at Paradise.  At Longmire there is a restaurant, a small gift shop and a museum (this wasn’t open).

The girls were very excited to find snow, every few feet my youngest would stoop down to pick it up.

Snow at mount ranier National Park

We then went for a short walk along the trail. My adventurous family hate to stick to the path, so soon we came across a river and we slid down the bank to see if we could get across.

My husband carried the little ones across but it wasn’t long before they were wading through the water themselves, just about managing to keep their clothes dry, even if their feet got a little wet. What a beautiful place it was, the wide expanse is so different from anything you get in the UK.  My husband (followed by the dog) soon practised his balancing act on a tree stump closely followed by my eldest.

mount ranier

The twilight was drawing in so we made our way back across to the path.  We walked back to the car holding hands as we felt it getting darker around us.  The girls were a little scared and a little excited to walk while it was getting dark but were reassured by the road nearby with its comforting lights.

The boots and socks were dried out overnight and we headed to Elbe for our train ride.  We gathered a few provisions in the local store.  I loved the sign explaining the demographics of Elbe  ‘population – not many’.

We soon saw the train arriving.

IMG_1354Mount Ranier Scenic Railway

Once the train departed the guard informed us that we could see Santa, we made our way through the many carriages trying hard not to fall and passing the many Christmas trees. Santa was in his grotto and the girls each had a nice gift and a candy cane.

santa collage

By the time we arrived back from Santa we had almost reached the mid-point of the journey. I have to admit I was a little disappointed by the views. I expected stunning mountain views but instead we saw forest, farms and rivers. The girls watched out for wildlife whilst playing with their new toys.
mount ranier scenic railway

The train ride lasted around 2 hours which seemed to pass very quickly. A lovely start to our Christmas festivities. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Mount Ranier when the weather is warmer.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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#Get Outdoors: Children Connecting with Nature

binocularsAutumn is a time for woodland walks, collecting interesting things along the way and looking out for animal homes and habitats.  As a child we had nature tables at school and we were encouraged to bring in conkers, sticky buds, acorns and leaves.  I used to love to walk in the woods and collect things.  We’d put nuts and conkers in their cases in the airing cupboard until they opened.  I used to lie in the grass scouring the leaves for 4- leafed clover. I found one when I was about 6 years old. I looked after it all weekend and on Monday carried it to school as the prize exhibit for the nature table. The temptation to fiddle with it however, was so great that on the way one of the leaves fell off. I turned up with an ordinary clover and a loose leaf and so no-one believed me.

autumn leaves

We’ve been foraging for Autumn things this week.  In the garden we have an abundance of Fir Cones, Maple Seeds and coloured leaves but we wanted to find other things like acorns and conkers.  I asked a friend where we might find conkers.

Conkers? What are they?  was her reply.

I found a single, solitary conker that had managed to make its way with us from England.

Oh, it’s a bit like a chestnut.

Yes, a rounder chestnut and the casing is different, with larger more spaced out spines and they are poisonous.

maple leaves

Outside the girls ballet class we found a variety of different pine and fir cones from tiny ones in clusters to great big narrow ones.  We walked in the woods to see what else we might find.  We found….. more pine cones, …. more maple seeds,… more maple leaves but nothing different.  I suppose we often take the things we have in our environment for granted – I love the towering Evergreens we have here, mixed in with the colours of the Maples but I do miss conkers and acorns.

woodland walk

Wild animals on the other hand are extremely varied.  We watched huge salmon jumping in the river, saw enormous yellow butterflies and watched a small snake basking in the sun.  Our favourite visitors are hummingbirds.  The first time I saw one I thought it was a dragonfly but when it rested on a flower I was so excited to discover it was a hummingbird.  I had no idea hummingbirds were native here. I read up about attracting them to the garden and bought a hummingbird feeder that we fill with 4 parts water to 1 part sugar.  We now have regular visitors outside our window.

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Of course there are also the more scary types of wildlife. The ‘ballet moms’ were talking about finding bobcats, cougars and coyotes in their garden and black bears on woodland walks, especially near the rivers now that the salmon are spawning.

RSPB Get Outdoors

As  I was musing about our appreciation of the natural world and the things we miss from home, a new report from the RSPB was brought to my attention. Connecting with Nature presents the findings of a three-year RSPB research project measuring just how connected to nature the UK’s children really are. Connection to nature is measured in 4 areas:

  • Enjoyment of Nature
  • Empathy for Creatures
  • Sense of Oneness
  • Sense of Responsibility.

You can take the questionnaire to see how connected your children are. If you are outside of the UK, the report also gives you the criteria used for the questionnaire so that you can investigate how connected children are in your area.

I think the sense of oneness is an interesting one.  How young was I when I first felt a sense of oneness with nature? I know my youngest daughter will always choose to go outside collecting sticks, pouring rainwater and arranging stones – is this an early sign of oneness with nature?  My eldest daughter emphatically announced that she felt peaceful when she was in a natural environment.  In a household with 2 noisy pre-schoolers her favourite haven is reading a book in a tree in the garden.

reading in the tree

I know for me, I feel at peace by the sea or in a woodland, both places I spent a lot of time in as a child. I can’t wait to visit the National Parks here in the US, to see the amazing diversity of the natural world here.

Connecting with nature has many benefits from physical activity, mental health and a sense of well being, education, social interaction, empathy and the impact on the sustainability of the natural environment.  The study found that  only 21% of children aged 8-12 in the UK have a connection with nature at a level that is realistic to their age.

“ There are statistically significant differences between children’s connection to nature at a national level across the UK, as well as between boys and girls, and British urban and rural homes.”

Surprisingly girls are more likely than boys to connect with nature and urban children more likely than rural children.  Further studies will be undertaken to determine why this might be. Looking at the questionnaire I think it may be that the questions are angled at more feminine pursuits, feeling peaceful in nature, collecting shells, listening for sounds and taking care of animals are not exactly cool for young boys.

investigating natural materials

The research will add to the growing evidence base about children and nature. This includes a study by Natural England which suggested that factors contributing to connection are in decline. It reported that only 10% of children in the UK played regularly in natural places in 2009, compared to 40% in the 1970s.

Getting children out in the natural world when they are young won’t guarantee a continued interest once the world of school, clubs, homework and computer games takes over but it will certainly put them on the right track.

The environmental identity developed by children between the ages of 3 and 7 is  an emotional affinity towards a specific aspect of nature which had been strengthened by providing positive experiences with nature on a regular basis.   (Karls and Ittner 2003).

Some researchers also believe that there is an optimal moment usually between the age of 6 and 12 which form a person’s attitude to nature;  perhaps the 4 leafed clover was mine.

Other Posts You May Like to Read

20 Outdoor Things to do Before you are 5

Woodland Activities