Boys and Nature

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it or enjoy sharing the pleasure and joy of it with those who celebrate Christmas.

When I was writing about boys in the city, I was thinking about  my friend and Colleague, Dr. Kimberly Bezaire and her research on boys, play, and literacy as well as her mother research that she’s been doing with her son for more than 10 year. So, I thought to invite her to join the dialogue and post on this blog. Here’s what she wrote for us and also generously shared a picture of her son.

Yes…boys pretend – tell, act and live stories – outside… adventures, dangers, fears & courage – these are the play themes I see and hear… especially when I’m not supervising TOO closely.

What is it about outdoor play that makes it so memorable, so special, so full of imagination and possibility?
The wind in your hair… the big sky or the tiny bugs… crunchy leaves… the smell of green… the feel of squishy mud The many things that fill our senses when we’re outdoors….

The risk-taking, experimentation, and adaptability that is possible outdoors – when kids aren’t restrained as much by grown-up walls and grown-up rules… then they can build and break down their OWN walls… and make up their OWN rules… no worries about too much noise or too much mess.… friendship & feelings – loyalties & comradeship are focus – creating and overcoming obstacles!

How do boys interact with nature?

This is about our young boys. Not that girls are different or are less important, but let’s think about boys today.

Bugs and little creatures often amaze boys. Their small but mystical body features with lots of tiny detail cannot be ignored. Their movement needs to be studied very carefully. Their busy social life and hard work are strange but interesting.  Boys generally are very fascinated to touch, hold, carry, share, and sometimes squish these tiny creatures! They beg to bring them home or to school. They hide them in their pockets. They love to tell stories either from their imaginations or from what they’ve learned in their school or books:

Spiders don’t bite!

Do you know there are fire ants?

I don’t like bees!




Boys particularly enjoy free time in the green world outdoors, where they can wander and wonder, play, talk to themselves, find things that interest them, hold a stick and tell scary stories, pick up flowers and imagine romance, and more important than anything else, to be a boy and a child. The boys that I knew as a child spent hours and hours exploring and thinking in the vacant lots, quiet ravines, grass fields, and their own home backyards.  The boys that I knew now also need a lot of that free time in the green world. Nothing can replace it; no computer game, internet surfing, kids’ movie, Wonderlands, or Chuck E Cheese. The social emotional benefits of free time in nature does not fit in a list or in a blog post. Health and educational experts, now, are seriously warning us about the lack of these opportunities for young children. L. Sax, R. Louv, D. Sabel, and J. Muir are just a few of them.

What are some of your childhood memories? What has changed since you were a child? Is anything missing? In what ways are our boys’ experiences with nature richer and more exciting these days?