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Going Green: Parks Department Connects Kids With Earthy Adventures

Programs give kids ways of appreciating and experiencing nature.

When I was a little girl, my family's backyard had everything I needed to learn about what was important in the world.

We had a glorious maple tree, milkweed plants, peonies, petunias, and all the creatures who make their homes crawling about them. I made necklaces by tying clover stems together, and I knew all about how ants carried big chunks of food across our sidewalk and into their own sandy castles.

These days, at least in many suburban neighborhoods, carefully manicured landscapes aren't as inviting for little ones to explore.

Richard Louv's book Last Child in the Woods brings attention to the problem nature-deficit disorder. It's about how sometimes kids become squeamish or anxiety-ridden by nature — the buzzing of bees, the prickles of evergreens, the slipperiness of mud on a rainy day.

One way to give kids a fresh perspective on the wonders of the world is to sign them up for Algonquin's Events and Recreation nature programs.

Nature Explorers is offered free for one Sunday each month through November. The dates are:

  • Sept. 25 "Story of Your Trees"
  • Oct. 23 "Shapes and Color Adventures"
  • Nov. 13 "Your Very Own Rock"

Instructor Barb Wilson leads the class, which is held from 2 to 3:30 p.m. and is designed for parents to attend with their children. Through simple but meaningful activities, like standing under the umbrella of a tree, or uncovering the gems of a walk in the woods, families can build a stronger connection with nature.

Benefits may include more developed observation and imagination. Those are gifts that shape a lifetime.

Last week I was on the phone with one of my creative artistic friends who happens to be almost 50. In the middle of a serious conversation, he interjected that the clouds in the sky were so striking, because they looked like puffy billows of white hair on the sides of an old man's face. Now that's a great way to enjoy a moment of relaxation in the midst of a hectic work day. And we all can stand to gain with taking a look around and admiring nature's canvas.

My husband decompresses from his corporate world each day by immersing in the natural one as soon as he gets home. Taking care of the garden, moving a few branches, trimming a couple herbs, or giving some ground cover a drink is a perfect way to settle in for some peace and quiet.

Spending time outdoors also might improve motor skills, balance, coordination and agility. Hiking on uneven ground, and reaching the top of a rocky hill, has its way of taking our minds off unpleasantries.

Nature Explorers is open to all ages. It takes place at , 100 Jefferson St. More information is available at the park district at 1-847-658-2700.

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