Outbound Collective logo

Why Nature Needs Our Kids

And why it needs a meaningful relationship with them.

By: Emily Kent + Save to a List

Just over a week ago you may have read or heard the news story about a group of college kids who camped out in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest area and left it trashed (U.S. News - Lake Shasta). To say the least, our Leave No Trace principal was definitely not adhered to. It's easy to get disgusted and feel totally bummed out that in today's world, there are still times and places where our natural environments are abused. 

Aside from tireless forest service workers doing a bulk of the clean-up in cases like this one, what is the long-term solution here? I'm asking you, as you are reading these words right now, what is the preventative answer? The discussion box is waiting for your thoughts at the bottom of this page. =)  Please share them!

I think it's more than a worthy question. I think it's a crucial one: What are we doing to ensure that our natural surroundings are well taken care of and protected by future generations? 

While I don't think there is just one answer, I do think that getting our kids outdoors on a regular basis at an early age is a great place to start. It surprises few of us to learn that more and more of our youth are spending far greater time indoors and plugged into electronics than ever before (NPR Ed - Kids and Screen Time). Here I sit at my computer as I write this, so irony noted! But we know the necessity of being technologically savvy in today's world, and recognize the importance of computer literacy for kids and adults alike. However, nature needs our kids as well. It needs a relationship with them. Our kids are the future champions of land preservation and restoration, environmental education, and resource conservation. We can only expect them to become passionate about these things if they develop a connection to them - a connection between nature and their very core beings. We take care of what and who we love, right? I think it's up to us to plant the seeds while they're still young, for a love of nature to develop and grow.

So, how do we do this? How do we ensure that our kids grow up with a true love for our natural environment? Well, true love has to be organic to the individual, and I don't have a love potion or surefire formula. But I do know that as a mom of a 5 year-old and a toddler, my kids at young ages are quickly learning the things that I deem important by watching me. Listening can be a bit more of a struggle. =) But my actions are constantly monitored by my little ones. They learn by doing as I do. Day to day, we do our best to model the little things, like stopping while playing in the park to pick up a stray piece of trash. The kids see me doing this, they mimic it, and before I know it, litter pick-up becomes one of their favorite "games" to play at the park.

On a more long-term note, I think personal experiences in the outdoors can carry the most impact for kids. Memories of childhood camping trips with family and friends are likely to stick with us. When we can connect an outdoor adventure to people we love who are there with us, nature is more likely to become personalized for us. And when it's personalized, we're likely to care for it and protect it. 

So no, I don't have a solution to ensure that another trashed campsite incident never occurs (though we can sure hope). But I do know that kids are smart and they are wired to care. Giving them any opportunities we can early on, to experience and enjoy the beauty of our forests, lakes, rivers, and parks can create joyful memories. And hopefully through the eyes of our kids, nature will become personal and a priority. 

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Do you love the outdoors?

Yep, us too. That's why we send you the best local adventures, stories, and expert advice, right to your inbox.


10 Things you need to do in Baja

wyld honeys

A golden happy hour on the California coast

Hannah Sibley

Review: Danner Mountain Light boots in Yosemite National Park

Hannah Sibley

8 Amazing national park lakes to explore this Summer

The Outbound Collective