We know it, but we don’t do it enough. Unplug. Get outdoors. Celebrate the wonders surrounding us. Teach our kids that nature needs nurture, and we need to love our planet as much as our big screens, small screens and all the distractions technology throws at us. It’s a challenge, but there is a payoff. We will be more focused, sleep well and get some exercise. Food will taste wonderful. It will be a different kind of tired at the end of the day that will feel, somehow, better.

Kids have boundless energy, curiosity, and love to move. It’s all about picking an age-appropriate activity and being prepared for the weather, with plenty of snacks, water and patience. When my eldest was little, we spent time in the forest, hiking and discovering amazing places. We got into the flora and fauna as she proudly learned to identify local trees, flowers, the occasional bird and if we were lucky enough, a marmot, deer, or coyote. Back in the day, we used our little pocket guide. My youngest was interested in different aspects of our exploration, be it rocks, landscape or food. There was a “teaching moment” around every corner, with the click of my camera and shouts of enthusiasm as we discovered the world around us. Cellphones had not entered the world at that point.

Oh, but there were the inevitable complaints, moans and groans of discomfort, tiredness and hunger. That’s when I’d resort to my bag of tricks for keeping things going: water and food; a game of “I Spy” as we trekked along; a rhyme or silly song; and endless stops for a myriad of needs, including breaks. On our outings, a small first aid kit came in handy for scrapes and spills, along with a fistful of tissues stuffed into pockets. Our dog would often accompany us, adding vigour, zest and humour with his antics. Note: dogs/pets are not always welcome or practical in some places, so it’s always good to google the locale first.

Our forays into nature often revealed interesting finds, like the time we followed an old road up a hill to discover a decayed shack and remnants of a train track. When we got to the top, the view was breathtaking. It was a hot day but the breeze was cool. A small snake in the grass had everyone excited, especially the dog who was fascinated by all the movement. This same dog once acquired many porcupine quills in his overly curious nose, but that’s another story for another time.

Of course a huge part of nurturing a love of nature is taking care of it. Packing out our garbage with us when garbage cans are not available is a biggy. Not dropping little bits along the way, and teaching our kids the importance of this. There are other types of pollution to be aware of besides garbage: noise, air, and water pollution come instantly to mind, and the “leave it as you found it” motto, or “leave it even better than you found it” is critical to preserving our fragile, unique environment. “Stay on trails”…“Don’t pick the flowers”… “Pack out garbage”…“No campfires” are just a few of the messages to heed in the great outdoors. Some would say taking care of nature is all about common sense, but the word I like is “respect.” We have so much work to do to fix our mistakes of the past. It’s never too late to start.

Nature is around every corner in Victoria. There are a multitude of parks to explore, oceansides to stroll, hills to climb, trails to bike or walk and plenty of other adventures. There are train trestles, potholes, waterfalls, lakes, campgrounds, tidal pools and more; many of these are surprisingly accessible.

As parents, we nurture our kids as they grow. As families and citizens of our planet, we can nurture nature as we plod along, not only teaching nature appreciation, but also responsibilty in our use and enjoyment. Combined with community action, education from schools, and clubs, we can help take care of the planet and join in the global quest to preserve our backyards. Best of all, we can have fun while doing it.

Kathy McWhirter has a forestry background, a deep appreciation for nature, and is waiting for grandkids to continue the exploration.