My Grandma and Grandpa Wilson had many professions. They were a nurse and a doctor, respectively, and they also had a farm, where I made many wonderful memories as a child. I remember gardening, and feeding cubes to the cows. My brother Doug and I would climb up into the mulberry tree and come down with cups (and stomachs) full of the sweet purple berries. We cleaned up brush, and played on the hay bails. We sat with grandma on the mower, and loved helping her drive it. There were so many things to do and see and smell and taste.
There is a growing trend, that both adults and children spend less time in nature. Of course there are many reasons for the "Nature Deficit", including urbanization, but when you realize that the average American child spends 4-7 MINUTES outside in unstructured play, and 7 HOURS in front of an electronic screen, something has to change.
I think the benefits of exploring the natural world far outweigh any excuses we try to make. Our daughter goes outside at daycare (when the weather is nice: we provided hats and sunscreen), but I like playing with her outside too, so we go make time to go to the park after daycare. Right now she cares less about the playground equipment, and more about interacting with the dogs at the park (and our little dog gets tons of love from the toddlers there, when we take him).
This last weekend we took her to the Little Farm at Tilden Regional Park. It's a wonderful place where anyone can walk up and interact with the animals (you can feed them lettuce and celery). Claire especially loved the birds (chickens, ducks and geese), but was curious about all the animals. She is biased towards our dog, however, and kept trying to call the animals over with the same hand signs she uses with Chip (our chubby chihuahua). I think this place will move into our rotation of weekend science museum and outdoor excursions.