The Conservation Case for Nature Play

This spring while attending the incredible 2017 Children & Nature Network International Conference in Vancouver, BC I had the opportunity to hear from a number of outdoor educators who work in park or nature-preserve settings. Over and over, the same dilemma came up: how to protect and preserve natural places while still creating space for children to play and explore.

Many conservationists express concerns that if children are allowed to play freely in natural places, they will disturb fragile ecosystems and cause potentially irreparable damage. Unfortunately, these fears often manifest in policies that require children to "stay on the trail" at all times, limiting their ability to interact in an authentic, playful way with their natural surroundings. 

Why does this matter? Because there is overwhelming evidence that shows that children who spend time playing in nature grow up to be adults that care about protecting the environment. 

If we want the next generation to care enough about public lands to protect them, we need to allow them to go off the trail, to pick flowers, to play in the mud, to develop a sense of wonder, and to build a close personal relationship with the natural world. A certain amount of ecological disturbance is a small price to pay for a future generation that will be passionate about protecting the earth. 

Click below to download "Fast Facts: The Conservation Case for Nature Play"

Emma Huvos