This post mentioned a topic dear to my heart - outdoor play. I grew up in a suburban area with small house lots, so I didn’t have access to a whole lot of “wilderness”. What I did have was an undeveloped patch within shouting distance of my house where I spent most of my free time. This patch was probably on the order of ½ an acre and has now been developed.
My little patch of woods had previously been used as a dumping ground for household refuse. Judging by the stuff I would find, I would say that it’d been used as a disposal area from the early 1900s to midcentury. Lots of porcelain shards, glass, metal bottle caps that were rusted beyond recognition, and the odd bit of shoe leather. One of my prized possessions when I was growing up was a piece of slag that I found there.
What else did it have? Some 2nd growth trees at full maturity, lots of boulders (probably deposited as construction debris and not by glaciers), a little stream that usually had some sort of oil slick, and large patches of thorn bushes that I strategically de-thorned and made into a secret lair that only a small child could fit into. If I the undergrowth was all leafed out and I pretended not to hear the people in the houses around me, it became a good approximation of wilderness.
Kids don’t need to have access to pristine wilderness to find nature. Once they’re old enough that they don’t need to be watched continuously (obviously this varies, but my parents left me alone with my woody area starting at about 8), they can find undeveloped patches or parks to explore and make their own fun. I realize that some folks live in exceedingly dangerous urban areas and this may be harder to do, but usually parks are a bus ride away.
I was in girl scouts, and I did my share of hikes and various activities in the woods. But what really started me on the path to a career in geology was my hanging out in my little patch of woods, making thornbush lairs, collecting porcelain bits, swordfighting with branches, and generally having fun without interference.