Q. I recently read a New Yorker profile about Astrid Lindgren, who wrote all those glorious books about Pippi Longstocking. She was quoted at length about her lifelong love of climbing trees, holding newborn chicks and other experiences.

Even though I'm a native midwesterner who grew up in the country, I missed out somewhere, somehow. I never developed a bonding, an emotional connection with nature. Now I seek ways to help my 4- and 7-year-old to sense the marvel around them.

Where can I take my children to see new lambs and touch baby chicks?

What specific weekend outings in the area can appeal to the young without requiring long car trips? Which nature centers, particularly in Northern Virginia, offer programe a sense of wonder?

A. It might seem natural for a child to bond automatically with nature, but that is seldom true. The parents who enjthemselves are the ones who foster an interest, as parents who like reading, music, art and science inspire a lifelong interest in those pleasures. If you help your children make a connection in any of those areas, they will always be the richer for it.

Because theree so many museums and monuments in the area, nature seems almost overshadowed. Actually there are many places to visit that will make the environment to your children. A sampling:

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Southeast Washington, full of frogs, lotus blossoms and lilies, butve it for a cool day. It's a buggy, muggy place.

The Long Branch nature center in Arlington, Brookside in Wheaton. There also are some working farms, including the superb Oxon hat demonstrate different periods of history from the early 1900s.

To find out more about these and others, consider The One-DTrip Book by Jane Ockershausen Smith (EPM, $4.95), which has 101 offbeat excursions in this area, recommended according to season;Day Trips Through History, also by Smith (EPM, $9.95), which leads you through our countryside chronologically, and the granddaddy of them all, Green Acres School's Going Places With Children (Associated Designers, $4.95).

You'll find faters listed and much more, including musems, riding stables, a chicken hatchery; the children's zoo in Columbia, Md.; the zoolab for children at our Noo, and the barnyard zoos at Cabin John and Wheaton Regional Parks.

A child's introduction to nature, however, doesn't have to be packaged.

Quiet walks a Canal, for example, will give you memories just as lasting. If you cover only a short distance, you'll have th the birds, examine the flowers, find the spores on fern fronds.

Your own new-found interest in these wonders will help your children bond better with nature--and with

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