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Demoting Nature Words
May 17, 2016
To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.
-Mother Teresa

"A" should be for acorn, "B" for buttercup, and "C" for conker, not attachment, blog, and chatroom, according to a group of authors, reported in The Guardian, who are "profoundly alarmed" about the loss of a slew of words associated with the natural world from the Oxford Junior Dictionary, and their replacement with words "associated with the increasingly interior, solitary childhoods of today."

"The 28 authors warn that the decision to cut around 50 words connected with nature and the countryside from the 10,000-entry children’s dictionary, is 'shocking and poorly considered' in the light of the decline in outdoor play for today’s children.  They are calling on publisher Oxford University Press to reverse its decision and, if necessary, to bring forward publication of a new edition of the dictionary to do so.

"We recognise the need to introduce new words and to make room for them and do not intend to comment in detail on the choice of words added.  However, it is worrying that in contrast to those taken out, many are associated with the interior, solitary childhoods of today.  In light of what is known about the benefits of natural play and connection to nature; and the dangers of their lack, we think the choice of words to be omitted [is] shocking and poorly considered," the authors have written to the dictionary's publisher.  The 28 signatories say their concern is "not just a romantic desire to reflect the rosy memories of our own childhoods onto today’s youngsters.  There is a shocking, proven connection between the decline in natural play and the decline in children’s wellbeing," they write, pointing to research which found that a generation ago, 40% of children regularly played in natural areas, compared to 10% today, with a further 40% never playing outdoors.  "Obesity, anti-social behaviour, friendlessness, and fear are the known consequences," they say.

Natural Playscapes

Natural Playscapes: Creating Outdoor Play Environments for the Soul
by Rusty Keeler,
is an inspiring, yet practical resource on bringing outdoor playspaces to life. It describes how children relate to the natural world, gives many examples from around the world of how early childhood professionals and parents have planned and constructed natural playscapes. Included are blueprints, step-by-step instructions, and tip sheets such as "20 Ways to Create Natural Playscapes," and "15 Free or Low-Cost Things to Enrich Your Playscapes."

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Comments (1)

Displaying 1 Comment
Lori · May 17, 2016
Pennsylvania, United States

The children in my class are never happier than when we are playing outdoors---no computers in our preschool!

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