Thunderstorms pass over the emerald waters and boulder-lined banks of the Pedernales River along the Lower River Trail at Milton Reimers Ranch Park. Photo by Eric W. Pohl

This morning, before I sat down to write this, a flock of wild turkeys wandered into our backyard in the Driftwood area. We bought our home in the Hill Country six years ago, and it still offers delightful surprises on a regular basis. The feeling of living in a natural playground is why we chose to settle here when we moved to the Austin area from inner-loop Houston. My husband and I wanted our kids—part of an unprecedentedly wired generation—to grow up close to nature and have a chance at a more free-range childhood.

Even in our idyllic surroundings, it’s a daily struggle to limit screen time and coax our kids outside. I can’t think of another topic that comes up more often when I’m talking with fellow parents. Having been raised without the technology our kids have access to, our generation of parents struggles with striking the right balance, knowing that time spent exploring outside and in creative play is always beneficial. When I feel overwhelmed with fighting against the ever-increasing tide of digital options enticing my kids, I try to remind myself to keep it simple and take small steps. Sometimes half the battle is turning off the screens and pushing our kids out the door. Once they’re outside, the mandatory half-hour of play often turns into one or two hours. Soon, they’re hunting for interesting rocks or creating a secret hideout in the live oak and cedar trees that line the back of our yard.

For our cover story, South Texas-based author Rubén Degollado talks with groups dedicated to connecting kids, especially those living in urban areas, to nature. A way to start simply is finding a local park or natural area to visit. One of our family favorites is Milton Reimers Ranch Park near Dripping Springs. Set against the backdrop of the Pedernales River, its uniquely Hill Country beauty reveals new facets to admire each time we hike there. I hope it becomes a place our kids associate with their childhood and reminds them of the irreplaceable value of dialing into nature.

Emily Roberts Stone
Editor in Chief

From the April 2023 issue
The June 2024 cover of Texas Highways: Treasures from the Coast

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