“I Love Dirt!”

Most of the current generation of Chinese parents have childhood memories of climbing trees, playing in mud and wading in pools – simple pleasures that in the cities of today have become rare luxuries. To provide urban parents with a guide to teaching their children about the natural world, Friends of Nature has translated the American children’s author Jennifer Ward’s I Love Dirt!: 52 Activities to Help You and Your Kids Discover the Wonders of Nature into Chinese.

The book suggests simple, fun activities for parents and children that are easy to enjoy in cities – such as putting an old glove or sock on your hand, rubbing it on grass, flowers and bushes and then planting and watering it before placing it on a windowsill  – and before you know it you’ll see how much of the local vegetation grows. Environmental friendliness and an appreciation and respect for nature are inconspicuously instilled. Children are encouraged to plant a “butterfly café” of nectar-rich plants, to feed birds in winter and to leave foliage so small animals can stay warm – activities that teach children that treating animals well is the best way to get close to them.

From the sky, trees and the wind to ants, stones and puddles of rain, the book’s ideas are all educational and provide children with rich learning experiences. Through playing with their parents , children strengthen their powers of observation, imagination and creation. Mums and dads also get to enjoy the fun and laughter.

So if you don’t want television, the Internet and computer games to run your children’s lives, what are you waiting for? It’s beautiful outside – grab the kids and go!

I Love Dirt!: 52 Activities to Help You and Your Kids Discover the Wonders of Nature
Jennifer Ward
China Environmental Science Press, 2011

— By Liu Xinyan

Liu Xinyan is deputy director of the Beijing Brooks Institute