Nature Activities for Middle School Girls
We all recognize early adolescence as a special challenge. We know that spurts in physical, social, emotional, and mental development come with the onset of puberty and that one of the challenges for kids at this age is developing their own sense of self. They are continually developing, testing, and changing themselves and their perceptions of self.
Middle school girls are less family-oriented and seek out their peers. Talking on the phone and changing from one best friend is normal, as it's a natural tendency at this age to want to band together. We see that middle school girls are more concerned about their social networks than about experiencing a dose of nature. Activities they enjoyed when younger are now "BORING!"
Middle school calls for strategies beyond the "make it fun" and "let them use their imagination." It's about relationships. To my twelve year-old daughter, friends are the center of her universe (for my son, this happened at thirteen). Here are some techniques that I have been using to help my daughter establish an enduring, positive relationship with nature.
Make Nature the Backdrop, the Set for the Social Scene
Your daughter may not want to do a family activity with you, but you're the driver, so invite a friend or two to go with you. When friends come over to your house, have the snacks and meals outside.
Remember their purpose for going out is to be with their friends, not "commune with nature." I try to give them some space and sometimes even some cash. A visit to a park always includes a stop at the gift shop for my daughter.
Take Lots of Pictures
As they search for their identities, I want my kids to picture themselves outside having fun with their friends. They may want to go back inside to post pictures on YouTube, but this way I know they have healthy, positive images to work with.
Vary the Activities
While some kids have found a passion or a special hobby, many seem to have multiplying and fleeting interests. Now is the time to capitalize on their energy and introduce them to lots of new things. Something is bound to stick and haven't you always want to learn how to rock climb?
Appeal to Self-Interests
Our family has a new dog and therefore another reason to be outdoors. A school assignment on the topic of chocolate evolved into a field trip to the botanical garden (and a visit to a candy shop). Money requested for new clothes required extra chores outside and then evolved into working at a monthly booth at the farmer's market.
Be a Facilitator (Not Just The Chauffeur)
Give your children choices. Let them plan and take ownership of some of their family and peer activities. A request for a sleepover turned into a stargazing party with the simple prompt, "Hey, isn't there a meteor shower that weekend?"
Slow Down and Reflect
Any activity can become more meaningful when paired with preparation and evaluation. Simple questions can help kids observe and assess their actions and feelings.
- "What went well?"
- "What you would change?"
- "What if 'so and so' was there? "
- "How did you feel when. . .?"
Many girls start keeping journals during adolescence, so practice with these questions will encourage critical thinking and self-awareness.