Giving Compass' Take:

• Suhel Quader discusses the importance of helping children connect with nature and how to help people overcome the barriers to accessing nature. 

• How can funders best support efforts to connect children with nature? 

• Learn about the mental health benefits of spending time in nature

Why do you think it is important for children to connect with nature?

For several reasons. Most importantly, it’s a crucial part of a child’s development. There is increasing talk about how spending time outdoors benefits children, and how not spending this time can result in what’s been called nature-deficit disorder. The natural world is an essential part of our evolutionary and cultural history. But if we don’t love it, we won’t fight for it. The big worry is that children are spending less and less time outdoors. We need to push against this trend.

Can you talk more about the barriers that prevent children in India from developing a connection to nature?

I can see several barriers, especially for urban children. One is that nature is romanticized as existing only in distant and wild places, and so one’s everyday surroundings seem mundane in comparison—but there can be so much excitement in any patch of greenery! Also, several pieces of research show that early experience with a wilderness (even if it is an unkempt urban park) can be very influential. But parents these days are increasingly paranoid about letting their children out of the home unsupervised; and technology adds to this by providing the largely indoor temptations of smartphone apps, computer games, and so on.

What are the different ways that kids living in urban settings can be encouraged to explore nature?

Natural ecosystems like national parks and sanctuaries are important to sustain and nurture. But we shouldn’t imagine that our immediate environment is unimportant. Children can explore nature in a variety of ways—from natural ecosystems that might be far away, to the gecko in the child’s home, to the plant on their balcony. At the EPE, we have been devising nature activities—about ants and tree bark, soil and birds, and so on—that children can carry out in their own neighborhoods.

Read the full interview with Suhel Quader about children exploring nature at Children & Nature Network.