One of the main things you hear about people who bring their children up in the city is how disconnected they are with nature. Every so often, there are stories about children who think milk comes only from cartons and so on and the media wring their hands and mock these poor children who’ve never seen grass and cows and so on. It’s stupidity on a massive scale. No one ever points out that not all children are like this and, even if they were, these children will have all kinds of knowledge that will be as important as knowing about cow juice. I also dislike the arrogance that comes with assuming that just because a child lives in the country, they’ll be more connected to the land and food production. A couple of centuries ago yes, but these days? I don’t think one necessarily follows the other any more.
As it happens, if you take a bit of time to think about it, there’s a lot of nature you can find in a city and you can do your best to introduce your child to it. Not one for the countryside myself (I get reverse cabin fever if we have a week in the country and have to punctuate it with a visit to a nearby city just to smell the concrete) I do however value open spaces and parks in cities very much. I think they’re fundamental to our sense of wellbeing.
And being S’s daughter, E is obviously going to grow up knowing about birds (he already has her noting down the types of birds in books – curlews in We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, crows in Room on the Broom, and so on, plus a friend bought us an I Spy book of birds so she’s well equipped for spotting). She’s very observant too, which helps, so she’ll happily point to something flying overhead which I haven’t noticed, or she’ll have found a tiny ant on the ground to stare at.
And so, with a combination of our garden, the local park, other city-based parks and the street, she’s had close encounters with: ladybirds, caterpillars, ants, woodlice, pigeons, sparrows, crows, gulls, ducks, geese, moorhens, coots, herons, worms, bees, some kind of shield bug, a frog, blue tits, goldfinches, blackbirds, squirrels, conkers, acorns, roe deer, red deer and pine cones.
To make sure I’m making the most of all this I’ve armed myself with It’s a Jungle Out There! 52 Nature Adventures for City Kids which gives you different ways of looking at nature and how we’re affected by it. I also value how our local park is being maintained with an emphasis on biodiversity – growing wildflowers, keeping the pond clean, creating a woodland area – which helps E have easy access to somewhere more wild.
It’s not a bad start. Though who knows what I’m going to do when she brings me a spider to look at…