The world today is so full of electronic gadgets that keep our kids busy. This can make it even harder for parents to get their children outside to experience the wonders of nature. The trick is to get your children involved in outdoor activities from a very young age, so that it just becomes a way of life.
While exploring this vast planet, let your child uses all their senses – sight, smell, hearing, touching and tasting – to fully experience the pleasures of nature. The more they get involved, the more they will want to do. As a parent you can foster this love of the outdoors by participating with your children; together you can learn a lot.
Here are some things you and your child can do together to help foster a greater love for Mother Nature:
Take A Hike
Long distance hiking is out for the littlest ones. However, short walks are always fun. Parenting means getting out and walking the walk, so join your child in exploring nature trails or the sidewalks in your own neighborhood. To fully enjoy the wonders of nature, walk the same path at least once a month.
This will allow you and your child to notice the seasonal changes going on around you. Hikes with Tykes and Get Your Kids Hiking are two of my favorite books on getting your children hiking at a young age.
Start a Collection
Kids like to collect things. Why not help them learn about the things they collect. Go to the library, or buy books that will teach both you and your children how to identify the rocks, feathers and leaves found in the wild. The Nature Connection is an incredible workbook for children and parents alike.
Books about plants will help identify which plants are safe, as well as which are poisonous. Help your child create a home-made flower press (use a heavy book) or a shadow box to hold all their treasures. The Kids Outdoor Adventure Book is an Honorable Mention of the 2013 National Outdoor Book Awards. Well worth checking it out for you and your family.
Create Works Of Art
As you and your children gather up twigs, seeds, flowers, and a host of other treasures found while nature exploring, think about what you can do with these objects. Discuss the many ways you can turn these treasures into usable items: branches make nice picture frames; you can make wreaths for various vines and flowers. See what animals your children can create using pinecones and seed pods. The ideas are as endless as the thoughts in their minds.
Take A Safari
You don’t need to travel to far off lands to search for wild critters. Take your children on a walk through your own neighborhood and look for butterflies, birds, and any other wildlife that might be roaming your area. If possible, take your children to the forest and have them watch for even more wild animals. You might get lucky and spot a deer family enjoying a drink at the nearby stream.
Have A Picnic
You can picnic in your own yard, or go to a nearby park. The idea is to get out of the house and have fun together. Be sure you have a frisbee or a ball handy, and be sure to use them! Picnics are always a fun time to explore nature and find more items to add to each collection.
Children have this natural attraction to bugs. They are beautiful, fascinating critters; some of them are scary and most of them are “icky” to some extent. This is why kids love bugs! Buy your children a magnifying glass and watch them play sleuth and find bug after bug. There are bug vacuums available for capturing the little critters, and kits that include a new home for those collected bugs.
Feed The Birds
Buy books about birds, a bird feeder (or two), and some bird seeds. Place the feeders in your back yard and watch the birds that flock to eat. Help your children identify the birds that they see. Let them use binoculars to get a close-up look at the feeding birds.
Plant A Garden
Growing plants fascinate children. Help them explore nature by starting a garden. You can grow a few simple vegetables or herbs in small pots placed on a sunny windowsill. Or, you could go all out and plant a large garden. Space will surely dictate how much you can grow. If space allows, create a container garden just for your child. Help them plant veggies seeds that they will eventually eat. Give them use of a digital camera and a notebook to record the progress of their growing plants.
Eat From The Wild
Finding edibles in the wild is always a treat. To ensure the safety of your family, buy a book about edible plants and learn which ones are safe and which plants to avoid. And since I am huge fan of unique and hard-to-find books, I will refer you here for a vast array of intriguing topics. Your children will enjoy learning about the various plants and then more than enjoy the hunting and gathering of these edibles.
Look for wild blueberries and blackberries; gather up some honeysuckle flowers and enjoy a cup of honeysuckle tea; search for wild onions and use them in tonight’s dinner. Teach your children not to pick their bounty near roadways. These plants, while still edible, often contain too many toxic chemicals for human consumption, and may make your family sick.
Children are fascinated with the night sky. Buy a map that identifies stars, planets and constellations. Using binoculars, a telescope, or just the eyes, gaze skyward with your child and take turns pointing out various constellations or planets. Lie on a blanket and watch the night sky, this is the simplest way to enjoy Mother Nature.
Parenting is a rewarding job when everything flows smoothly. It is your job to instill a love of nature and the outdoors to your children. The trick is to start early, do it often, and do it as a family. There’s a vast world out there: explore it – together.