Sep 13, 2012

Back To Nature: The Power of Timeless Wanders

            A connection to nature is one of the most precious gifts our children have. Not only does time close to the earth nourish their physical body, but also their mind and soul. We all have the ability to re-connect children with nature, regardless of our outdoors knowledge or experience.

            A powerful and simple tool available to us all is the timeless wander. This experience is usually overlooked because it runs counter to one of modern society’s strongest assumptions: Children are buckets that must be filled. Time where children are not amassing information, facts and knowledge is usually seen as wasted. 

            But for children to enjoy experiences close to nature we must work not to fill buckets but to empty them. When children are full of nothing but facts, life becomes a boring, repetitive treadmill, where all there is to know is information. Unfortunately this leaves behind real, personal experiences. Children turn off. For example, if I am full with information about cottonwood trees, the next time I come across one I am likely to say, “It’s just a cottonwood. I know everything about them already. There’s nothing more I can learn from this.”
            The empty cup supports children in being spontaneous, alive, and inspired by each present moment. This is where the timeless wander comes in. There’s no agenda; nowhere children have to be, nothing they have to do, and no time to worry about. With a new-found sense of freedom, children return to a deep and meaningful connection with nature. Peace, joy and creativity are experienced in abundance!

The timeless wander simply leaves three things behind: Time, Destination and Expectation. This is life-changing.
No Time
           Nature is timeless. Very often our adult lives are lived perennially in the future. So we find it difficult to support children in connecting with the earth because nature only deals in the present moment. When we wander with children it is so easy to let go of time and be fully present. It doesn’t matter what we will be doing in an hour. In the here and now of our wander we might come to play in a stream. But if we are not present, both our children and ourselves will be left with only a superficial experience of the water. The present moment supports children in embracing their innate connections with nature.
No Destination
           Destinations create rigid, set paths that limit children’s ability to follow their hearts and discover nature’s magic moments. Children very rarely move in straight lines. Instead they meander wherever they feel drawn to. Gently feeling the petals of a blossoming flower is more important to a child than reaching the end of the path. Listening to the song of a bird holds far more power for a child than getting to an arbitrary finishing point. For a child, there is no destination. All that exists is where they are now. This is where they experience being truly alive and connected to nature. When we wander with children, we might move a mile from the parking lot, or we might move a few feet. What’s important is not if children reach the destination but what experiences they have on the journey.
No Expectation
           Expectations create barriers that severely limit children’s experiences in nature. Many times as adults we are only moved by what we perceive to be grand and majestic; the eagle flying overhead, the eight-point bucks locking antlers, a golden sunset behind snow capped mountains. Young children have no such expectations. They find wonder in the movement of a worm, delight in the dance of a bee, and joy in the jump of a grasshopper. They learn from adults to create hierarchies where some things are worthy of their attention and others are not. So when we wander and take the time to notice the ‘small’ things we support children in cultivating the love and respect they were born with for all things in nature.

            As we wander, leaving time, destination and expectation behind we find a different child emerges. Nature turns from a pre-planned treadmill into a sanctuary of inspiration and play. Children soon begin to seek more experiences close to the earth because that is where they feel most alive. Without those three anchors to weigh them down children discover that nature is the source of their deepest peace, greatest joy and most abundant creativity.

Simon Paul Harrison is the founder of Wild Earth’s Children and the author of The Truly Alive Child: For Those Who Seek a Grander Vision for Our Children. Available now from or Amazon.


Mama in Chile said...

Beautiful post. Totally agree. I try and spend as much time as possible outside with my kids, my girl always gives the trees hugs and kisses :)

Keya said...

We live right in the middle of a busy town with lots of concrete and very little "wild life". But fortunately my daughter goes to school in a suburban area where there is grass, trees a pond and even ducks. We love just to take our time before and after school. hanging out. feeding the ducks. sitting under the trees. Its so wonderful to have that time. And when we are out there it really is like there is no time at all.

Carol Lawrence And Stacy Toten said...

Tamsin Michelle, glad to hear you are able to spend an abundant of time in nature. It's so healthy!

Keya, your daughter is lucky to have her school located next to a pond!! Even a local park with trees can be very grounding and provide an outdoor experience.