5 Tips to Get Your Kids Out of the House and into Nature

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One day, I looked out the window to check on my son who was playing outside.   I have been blessed with a very active little boy. He never stops moving from sun up to sun down.  For this reason, I was mildly concerned when I noticed that he had not moved from his spot for 10 minutes.  When I went out to check on him, I saw he was sitting on his tricycle staring up at a tree.  I asked him what he was doing and he said he was looking for ladybugs.  Then he showed me the collection of 4 or so ladybugs he had in the back of his trike.  Frankly I was amazed at the amount of time he could spend sitting perfectly still looking up in that tree.   Learning to be still and observe is just one of the benefits of spending time in nature. 

Growing up on the outskirts of town, I felt like I had plenty of time in nature.  I also had the oppourtunity of being around animals a lot.  We had chickens, goats, cats and dogs, a large garden (sometimes two) and lots of apple trees.  I feel this free, unhurried timeby myself and playing with siblings- helped me develop a lot of good things, among which is a love of nature.  It is this love of nature which especially helps me cope when I am feeling stressed.  My question now, is how do I foster this love of nature in my children? 

We live in a time that is increasingly distant from nature.  Our food comes from stores and most people live in cities or suburbia.  The world is increasingly high tech and many people spend more time indoors than ever before.   These five ideas can help our kids (and us!) let go of the frantic pace of modern life and enjoy the slower pace of nature.

  1. Find a piece of nature near you and use it!  This can be difficult,  depending on where you live.  If you are lucky enough to have a back yard, nearby this can be a perfect place.  Those who live in apartments may have to look harder, but a nearby park can work well.  We even use a small patch of grass by the parking lot for our apartments for watching clouds and looking for bugs.  The important thing is to get out at least some every day.   Allow for unstructured play and don’t get too involved.  I’ve noticed my kids play differently when they think that I’m not watching them.
  2. Watch the clouds.  I love this activity to bring a sense of calm to our day, and work on our imaginations finding pictures in them!
  3. Make learning about nature a sensory experience.  Getting dirty and playing in nature go together like two peas in a pod.  Gardens are especially sensory rich. If you can make room to grow anything, I highly suggest it.  Working the soil with your hands, watching plants grow (this also helps patience develop!), the smell of the plants and eating them at your own table are all wonderful things to keep the senses busy but not overstimulated.
  4. Go camping (even if it’s in your backyard).
    The world at night is a strange and wonderful thing to a child.  Everything looks different at night and a whole new world of observation will open up for them!
  5. Go on a bug hunt (or a bird hunt, or an animal hunt, etc.) Keep a field journal of what they observe.  Depending on the age of your child, this can be anything from a simple drawing to a complex journal of observations of different animals and where they live, what they eat, etc.

Let’s all take advantage of the beautiful world out there and go enjoy the sunshine!  (and the rain!)

How do you and your kids like to enjoy nature?

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