Getting Children Outside: Lifestyle and Language

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children silhouetted against blue sky on hill

Language is powerful. With the reduction of nature language in junior dictionaries, how do you motivate kids to explore nature when the vocabulary to express it and to understand it seem to have been made less of a priority? Here are some suggestions.


I thought this article was satire from The Onion. Sadly, it’s not. It is hard to believe that nature words are being replaced by technology words in the Oxford Junior Dictionary geared towards seven year olds.

Seven? Really?! Children that age need to be more aware of otters, magpies, and acorns, than of broadband, chat rooms, and analogue (whatever that even means!).

We are nature

There is a place for technology, but not at the expense of eliminating nature. Why not just add tech words? We are nature, born of the same magnificent process that creates sunrises, rainbows, ocean waves, birds, food, flowers and all the words omitted from the Oxford Junior Dictionary.

Many kids these days lead solitary lives indoors playing on computers, phones and tablets. Youth around the world is at its unhealthiest ever, because many children rarely or never go outside.

Benefits of outdoor activity

It’s more important than ever to get your kids unplugged and tuned into nature! It’s good for their physical health, reducing blood pressure, and improving circulation and vision. Fresh air and exercise reduce the likelihood of diseases like diabetes and cancer.

two kids exploring nature

Play is important for brain development, which means kids who play outside do better in school, and have active imaginations and good critical thinking skills. Being outdoors reduces stress and ADHD, while improving coordination and creativity.

Play builds community and helps kids learn to socialize. Urban green spaces are being built to improve the mental and spiritual well-being of residents. Nature makes us happy!

What parents can do

Get your children outside. Yes, I know these are scary times when you’re afraid to let the kids run around the neighborhood. And I know both parents are working, so family time is limited. But think about it. Replacing nature with technology. What does that say in the big picture? Is this where the world is going? Is that what you want for your descendants?

Here are some ideas for tuning into nature. Gather up some neighborhood kids, and get out there!

  • Supervise unstructured outdoor play every day.
  • Build a playhouse or fort in the yard.
  • Put up a swing.
  • Make mudpies in the rain. Yes, get wet and dirty!
  • Look at the clouds. At night, look at the stars.
  • Go for a walk and bring back leaves, twigs, acorns (one of the casualty words…), and rocks. Create a scene in a box with them, or make an arrangement.
  • Shoot hoops.
  • Go biking.
  • Start a collection of rocks, plants or bugs.
  • Study tree bark.
  • Go to the park. Let your kids interact with other kids.
  • Buy an inexpensive camera, and take pictures of anything outside – clouds, flowers, people, fences, buildings, cars.
  • Start a garden. A community garden would get a lot of kids outside!
  • Walk on the beach and collect shells and seaweed.
  • Make a dictionary of the words that have been removed from the Oxford Junior Dictionary. Find pictures and color them. Study the life cycles and habitats of those plants and animals. See if you can find them in the wild.


Set the stage for a healthy and happy adulthood with an active outdoor life in childhood.

The natural world is cool. Dive into it, play in it, study it, incorporate it into your everyday life. Kids are sponges. They will absorb what you give them. We can live without technology, but we can’t live without nature. Balance the two worlds for the health of your family, your community, and the world.

And by all means, send your feedback to Oxford.

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