In this day and age of computer games, cell phones and lots of “screen time”, many parents worry that their kids are simply not getting enough exposure to the outdoors and nature. The good news is there are ways that parents can raise nature-loving children who enjoy the outdoors as much as the indoors. This will not only set your kids up for a lifetime of nature appreciation, it can also get them into the habit of being active, a habit that can reduce their chances of childhood obesity and chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Here’s are some things you can do to get your children begging to take them outdoors.
Start Them Early
One of the most important things to do to help kids get to love nature is to get them started early. Even when they are babies, getting them into a stroller or carrier and going for a walk in the park or a wooded area. Let them roll in the grass and feel the wind and sun on their face when you have the opportunity. Little things like this can help them begin to love being outdoors from the very beginning of their lives – and this can foster a lover of nature that they can carry with them into adulthood.
Make it a Regular Thing
Don’t make getting out into nature an event – instead, make it a regular part of your day so that kids will get to think of it as a normal and desirable activity. Take a look around you and find some parks or natural areas near where you live and try to get out there a little bit every day or at least several times a week. Getting into the habit of being outside can be a powerful thing for you and your children both. However, you can also make special occasions out of nature trips for birthdays, end-of-school-celebrations and school breaks.
There is no better way to immerse your kids in nature than to take them on camping trips, where they can watch the sun go down, sleep in a tent under the stars and hearing the amazing sounds of frogs, crickets and other nighttime creatures. If you do not always have the time to camp or do not camping facilities nearby, then consider pitching a tent in your own backyard to give them this experience. Getting the chance to camp with your kids will set them up for a lifetime of great memories.
Mix it up a Little
Kids will appreciate variety in nature just like they like variety in other things. Your adventures don’t have to be just walks or hikes. Go for a bicycle ride while they sit in a child carrier behind you. Take them canoeing on a local river. If you are lucky enough to live near the ocean, beach-combing is another great activity that can be enjoyed by the whole family.
Turn it into a Learning Experience
As your kids get a little older, turn your outdoor adventures together into a sort of informal science class. Learn the names of some of the local trees, identify wildflowers together or learn a few of the more common bird songs in your area. This can make your outings not only more enjoyable but also more educational and can easily enhance science and observation skills at school.
Make it Artsy
For the little artist in your life, turn nature into art in order to increase its appeal. This can be making jewelry from shells you’ve found at the beach, making paper from pressed leaves and wildflowers or painting pictures of things that you see in nature. As your children get older, introducing them to nature poetry or nature journaling can add to their enjoyment – and can help with academic achievement as well.
Take Advantages of Outdoor Classes
Take a look at your area and find out what nature centers, state or city parks, zoos, natural history museums or botanical gardens are within a reasonable distance. These kinds of facilities often offer a variety of nature-based programs that will give your children some amazing memories and also give them the opportunity to meet kids their age who are also interested in nature activities. These are just a few ideas to help get you started on raising children that have a deep love of nature and the outdoors.
Many of the activities you choose to do will likely be based on variable such as what kind of natural areas you live near, the climate, and the local habitats that offer the chance to explore and have adventures. But whether you live in a cabin in the mountains, a suburban, Midwestern town or even a large city, if you get creative and start digging, you are sure to find places nearby that will give your kids the adventures of a lifetime.