Summer’s the time for kids to really connect to nature

School’s out. Parents of younger children are certainly aware of the fact: many will have had to make alternative arrangements for childcare. Some may be grumbling about that.

You’ll probably see kids placed into structured programs, such as day camps and bible schools. All-day recreational activities abound. Let’s hope, however, that there remain plenty of opportunities for kids to be kids, to enjoy what summer vacation is all about.

It seems to me many adults have forgotten the simple joy of pure, unvarnished fun that comes with being a kid in summertime. Plenty of time to do whatever you want … or nothing at all.

I know I’ve lost touch with the simple pleasures. Summer seems to slip by in an instant. As winter drags on, I can’t wait for the hot stuff to arrive. The next thing you know, it’s Labour Day, with all the downside that entails.

I love the heat of midsummer, but in some ways I dread its arrival. A warm May – not in the cards this year – elevates the spirits. June signals summer’s arrival, though it was certainly slow off the mark this year. For some reason, however, I experience a twinge of regret when the calendar flips to July, as it did this week. July is great, but it leads to August. And we know what comes next.

Undoubtedly, there’s some kind psychological issue associated with anticipating the end of something even as it’s just getting underway.

Such thoughts never occurred to me when I was a kid. Time was different then. Not so fast. And each day was to be enjoyed, not filled with obligations. The weeks didn’t streak by as they do now.

When you’re a kid out having fun, the day can fly by. But the summer lasts forever. As adults, the day can drag on, particularly those hours between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. But the weeks and months are here and then gone.

As a kid, your summers are environmentally friendly and good for you, body and spirit.

Think about it, summers – at least as I knew them – were spent being active outdoors. At that time, we were literarily in touch with the earth – and we had the grass stains on our knees to prove it.

We made sandcastles and mud pies, proving that you’ll eat more than a peck of dirt in your lifetime. Better for our digestive systems were the wild berries we picked, and ate on the spot. In a spot along the railway tracks – long vacant acres of land, now home to a subdivision, as I waxed nostalgic about last week – raspberries and blackberries were abundant. A massive plum tree grew nearby. We picked them and ate them without a second thought. The pits were perfect for throwing.

Ponds and creeks – home to the occasional plunge – were perfect places for catching tadpoles, frogs and turtles. Nearby trees provided the essentials for makeshift spears, bows and arrows. In retrospect, poplar wasn’t a good choice, but there were hours of fun had nonetheless.

Pick-up baseball games – there was always one to be joined – combined athletics with a chance to bake in the sun … and go home with your shoes and underwear full of sand.

Running through yards and hedges playing hide-and-seek or chase led to scratches, scrapes and burrs in your hair.

Hands that were always covered in something – bicycle grease or perhaps the mysterious stuff accumulated by the Frisbee – only saw a nailbrush when mom got a close look.

A rope stretched between backyard trees and covered with a blanket was perfect for camping out overnight.

Even as we grew older, into adolescence and high school, we were still outside more often than not: campfire barbeques that offered the chance to simply watch the sparks fly, and co-ed touch-football games where you could make them yourself, with no thought to the laundry as you rolled in the grass.

Even just sitting around, you had no qualms about using boulders, logs or the lawn itself as a perch. Blades of grass or leaves – maples stripped of the green stuff so that only the skeleton remained – were always close to hand, and responsible for the green stains on your fingers.

At some point, however, many of us move away from that. Walking, running and cycling are replaced by the car. Our time with nature is something of a battle: mowing lawns, plucking weeds, trimming hedges. It’s a chore. The interaction with nature is a means to an end, not an end in itself, the way it was when we were kids.

I’m as guilty as the next guy. At the next opportunity – and there have been plenty of late – I think I’ll go stomp in a puddle just for the fun of it.

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