This is from a book I have not yet read, but has been on my list for an embarrassing number of years…
For children, nature comes in many forms. A newborn calf; a pet that lives and dies; a worn path though the woods; a fort nested in stinging nettles; a damp mysterious edge of a vacant lot–whatever shape nature takes, it offers each child an older, larger world separate from parents. Unlike television, nature does not steal time; it amplifies it. Nature offers healing for a child living in a destructive family or neighbourhood. It serves as a blank slate upon which a child draws and reinterprets the culture’s fantasties. Nature inspires creativity in a child by demanding visualization and the full use of the senses. Given a chance, a child will bring the confusion of the world to the woods, wash it in the creek, turn it over to see what lives on the unseen side of that confusion. Nature can frighten a child, too, and this fright serves a purpose. In nature, a child finds freedom, fantasy, and privacy: a place distant from the adult world, a separate peace.
These are some of the utilitarian values of nature, but at a deeper level, nature gives itself to children–for its own sake, not as a reflection of a culture. At this level, inexplicable nature provokes humility.
from Last Child In The Woods: saving our children from nature-deficit disorder, by Richard Louv.