Nature Mom: Spring It On!

I grew up in a house with a concrete backyard. An old in-ground pool was the culprit. At the time, my parents must have wondered how to raise nature-loving kids without any greenery in sight. Now, years later, I find myself asking the exact same question.

My husband and I recently moved downtown with our kids, Marley, 6, Indiana, 4, and Jude, 2. The house is a skinny semi with a paved, matchbox backyard and a small front yard with some planting potential.

To make matters more complex, I have mainstream culture working against me. As Victoria Stevens wrote in the TBG’s Kids Can Grow magazine, “It’s a sense of connection to the natural world … that many fear is being lost because children just aren’t experiencing nature the way they used to.” Studies show that for a myriad of reasons, children are more removed from experiencing and observing nature than ever before.

So, how am I going to beat the odds and avoid raising “nature-deficit children” in the heart of Toronto where pavement and pollution prevail? Can I instill in them a love of gardening? I say, bring it on! Here are some spring schemes that got us going:


I enlist my kids’ help for garden chores. And when they inevitably wander off looking for worms, that’s helpful, too. This week, Indie is raking, sweeping, and even pruning! We talk about what’s popping up and start planning for the planting season just around the corner.

Despite the lack of space, I reserve a chunk of my garden for my kids to play and plant. Right now, they are planning a “story garden” with a river made out of stones, hills and little characters to play in it. (I’ll update you on its progress next month.)

Even on rainy days, nature projects connect our children to the garden. Last week my kids made bird-nesting balls. They stuffed wire floral balls (for sale at the TBG shop) with yarn and twigs, which we hung on our tree for birds to come and collect.

With so many pressures, the last thing parents need is another responsibility. That’s why I keep things simple. Whether it’s examining bugs under a rock, stuffing pockets with dandelions, making mud pies, or taking a “Season Spotting” nature walk around the block, simple wonders abound. Go outside your neighbourhood and visit one of our city’s amazing farmers’ markets. [NOTE: The TBG Organic Farmers’ Market Opens on May 16. Open every Thursday from 3 to 7 p.m.]

So, will I be able to avoid raising “nature-deficit children”? Yes! Whether they realize it or not, kids yearn for nature and thrive when it’s a part of their daily lives. You’ll catch my family at the TBG on Sunday, April 21 celebrating Earth Day!

PHOTO CREDIT: Jonni Super Photography

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  • Miles Lytton

    Giving kids their own space in the garden is a great idea. I know some of my kids will love to plan and plant and the other… well he’ll love to get the worms and dig out any grubs.

    • Hilary

      Thanks for your comment, Miles. The worms are where it’s at for my guys, too. Worms never cease to amaze! This time of year, I’m also on the lookout at garage sales for old metal pots and kitchen utensils (spoons, ladles, etc.) that I keep at their disposal in their garden zone. There are all sorts of creative concoctions that come out of there! Keep me posted on your kids garden. I’d love to hear what you’re planning.

  • Ellen Kelner

    Downtown and dirty… a nice motto for all us city dwellers to live by. I look forward to hearing about the story garden’s progress.

    • Hilary

      Hi Ellen, I recently came across this quote and I love it: “In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” ~Margaret Atwood. This is what comes to my mind when I think of kids in the garden and nature…. but it goes far beyond the spring!