The Urban Nature Experience All Children Deserve

On the way home from preschool on Monday, after we got off the bus in our neighborhood, Lydia stopped to examine a pine tree in the tiny yard of an apartment building.  I took this opportunity to get some photos of her looking cute in her winter gear (she’d insisted on wearing two hooded cardigans instead of her coat this day) and communing with nature right there on the sidewalk of a major urban business district.

As I was putting away the camera, Lydia exclaimed with indignation, “Why won’t they come off?!”


“These pine needles don’t come off!  I only need one!”  No wonder she was frustrated–she’d been working at it for about two minutes.  Before I could offer any help, she said, “Maybe I have to take off my mitten.”

With her bare hand, she was able to pluck a pine needle easily.  “My mitten was too slippery,” she explained.  “Please hold this.”  I held the pine needle while she put her mitten back on.  After taking back the pine needle, she charged toward the street, saying, “Now I need a rock!”

I hurried after her, but of course she wasn’t going into the street, just to the strip between sidewalk and street which is filled with large, white gravel.  She selected the largest piece.

“Now I have a rock and a pine needle to poke it with!”

I followed along as Lydia resumed walking toward home, holding her rock in one hand and her pine needle in the other, moving the tip of the pine needle across the surface of the rock as if she were writing.  I have no idea why she wanted to do this, but it was clearly important.  She was so focused that I had to remind her to watch her step as we crossed the street.

“I hope June found a rock and a pine needle on her way home,” Lydia said.  “I hope Mason found a rock and a pine needle on his way home.  Everyone should have a rock and a pine needle to poke it with!”

Well.  There you have it: Every 3-year-old should poke a rock with a pine needle–to build appreciation for the simple yet satisfying experiences available here on Earth.

Even if you’re more than 3 years old, you might benefit from a moment among the pine boughs or the rocks, watching the rushing river or recognizing a forest or appreciating squirrels.  Sure, it’s good to hike in the park or get out to the wild wilderness, but don’t forget to see and feel the nature around you wherever you are!


5 thoughts on “The Urban Nature Experience All Children Deserve

  1. Pingback: Go Green in 2018: Get Out of the Car! | The Earthling's Handbook

  2. I have rocks and pine needles to poke them with…I’ll have to try it! I just returned a book to the library called It’s a Jungle Out There!: 52 Nature Adventures for City Kids by Jennifer Ward — sounds like your daughter can write her own version!

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