Easy Activities for Getting Kids Outdoors
I grew up in a small town well before the advent of video games and home computers. I played a lot outdoors in the woods, fields, and snow banks around our house. Kids today have many more electronic distractions and fewer opportunities to explore nature. We have distanced ourselves so much from nature that many people feel they need to drive to a national park or an ocean beach to experience nature. Parents who want to spend quality time with their children enjoying the outdoors need go no further than their front or back yard or to the public park down the street. A space as small as a crack in the sidewalk can be used for learning about plants, bugs, weeds, and other living things. You do not need to be an expert to point out ants, bees, dandelions, and daisies, or to distinguish between a pine tree and a maple. There are many ways to share your love and enthusiasm for the outdoors with children at all ages.
Easy Activities for Everyday Exploration of Nature
- In your garden, involve your kids in the planting process.
- Start seeds in plastic cups on a windowsill. Kids will be thrilled when the seeds sprout. They will take a special ownership when they transplant the seedlings to a place in the garden or to patio planters. They will also be more likely to weed and water the beds that hold “their” plants.
- Take your child on discovery walks. Each new discovery on the walk will take on added meaning - like spotting a squirrel eating a nut, finding a bird’s egg shell, or watching a spider on its web. These walks can be further enhanced by keeping a journal or scrapbook with stories, drawings, photographs, or specimens like pressed leaves. Your kids will enjoy the creative process and will want to share it with family and friends.
Parents and Children Can Learn Together
When you identify things in nature you get to learn alongside your child. There are many excellent field guides on various subjects for different ages, and the Internet is an excellent resource for identification searches and for finding images.
There are great books and book series on how to share nature with children. I recommend the Take a Walk books by Jane Kirkland (www.TakeAWalk.com), whose essay also appears in this Special Edition. These books contain ideas and activities for nature walks in many different environments. The Fun With Nature guides give good information on basic things you are likely to encounter on a walk, like tree bark, bugs, tracks, and common animals.
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