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Children take a walk on nature's wild side

(China Daily)

08:51, September 14, 2011

Liu Zhengtang and Annie collect leaves at Beijing’s Olympic Forest Park on Aug 28 as they take part in “Looking for Autumn”, a program to help children become more familiar with nature.(China Daily Photo)

Liu Zhengtang slowly approached a patch of grass as if he were a pioneer exploring a new world, curious and cautious.

It was the first time the 5-year-old had ventured into the woods.

Looking briefly at the ground, he bent down to pick up a fallen leaf, long and narrow in shape, near a row of underbrush. He then gingerly placed it into a little bamboo basket chosen especially for holding the "precious collection" he planned to obtain on his scavenging trip.

Liu and his family were taking part, along with others, in "Looking for Autumn", a program meant to help children become more familiar, or in some cases, acquainted with the great outdoors.

The program, which took Liu to the woods at Beijing's Olympic Forest Park, was designed in accordance with recommendations made in a book called I Love Dirt!: 52 Activities to Help You and Your Kids Discover the Wonders of Nature.

The boy's father, Liu Yingbo, said the opportunity to explore nature was welcome. He said his family lives near Purple Bamboo Park in Beijing but still finds little time to spend outdoors.

"Even in a park, my son's attention is easily drawn to electronic games rather than to bamboo or other green plants," said Liu Yingbo, who works as an information-technology engineer.

Rather than taking his son into the woods, he said he often finds himself paying 20 yuan ($3) or so to give him two or three minutes of entertainment on amusement-park rides.

Liu Yingbo's childhood was quite different. Born in 1981 in a rural part of the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, he grew up looking upon the woods and fields as his playgrounds.

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