Cramped spaces combined with noise and light pollution can make city living tough for children. Nature-based programmes such as Little Bush Crafters, which allows youngsters to “go wild” – play freely in nature, explore woods or wade in a stream – provide a welcome antidote. “Kids learn how to cook over an open fire, use a saw to cut wood, navigate their way through a forest and play in the river – they get to create their own little adventures,” says Danie Strydom, founder of HK Forest Adventures, which runs Little Bush Crafters, a programme designed for four- to seven-year-olds. Nature time is vital for a child’s development, says Strydom. “Today, a child’s time is very structured. Their lives are protected as parents worry about stranger danger, insect-borne diseases and germs. And schools are increasingly cutting back on recess and field trips. Yet studies reveal that children are healthier, happier and perhaps even smarter and more creative when they have a connection to nature .” The evidence suggests he is right. In February, a study from Denmark’s Aarhus University found that children raised in green surroundings have up to 55 per cent less risk of developing mental disorders later in life. A month later, a study from the University of Illinois, in the United States, found that spending time in nature boosts a child’s academic achievement, a finding that should catch the attention of parents in a city where scholarly results are all-important. “We found strong evidence that time in nature has a rejuvenating effect on attention; relieves stress; boosts self-discipline; increases physical activity and fitness; and promotes student self-motivation, enjoyment and engagement,” says Ming Kuo, an associate professor at the University of Illinois and lead author of the study. “All of these have been shown to improve learning.” And let’s not forget the fun that can be had in the great outdoors. “A typical response at the end of the [Little Bush Crafters] programme is ‘I don’t want to go home!’” says Strydom. “Hong Kong kids are no different to other kids around the world. All they need are adults who trust them and create opportunities for them to take risks and have adventures.” Priced at HK$600 per child, Little Bush Crafters will be held on Saturday and October 19, from 10am to 1pm, at HK Forest Adventures’ Tai Shui Hang campus. For more details, visit hongkongforestadventures.com .